Students from McMaster and Western talk “Impact”

To date, SOSCIP has enabled more than 460 students and trainees engaged in collaborative R&D projects to gain in-demand data science skills. The 2017 Impact Conference in May gave trainees from across all fifteen of our academic member institutions to demonstrate their communications skills by presenting the impact/results of their research at the 3-Minute Impact Competition.

First place prize, provided by IBM Canada Ltd., went to Omar Boursalie, a second-year PhD biomedical engineering student at McMaster University. Second place prize was provided by Ontario Centres of Excellence to Kimberley Adamek, a PhD student in the civil and environmental engineering department, Western University. Below, Boursalie and Adamek share their experiences presenting their research.

  1. Who is your research team and what is the aim of the SOSCIP project?

Boursalie: My project is “Pan-Canadian data collection and analysis platform for patient radiation protection and safety”. Dr. David Koff (McMaster) is the principal investigator; my supervisors are Dr. Thomas Doyle and Dr. Reza Samavi (McMaster University). Medical imaging (such as CT and X-ray) is a powerful clinical tool to diagnose patients without subjecting them to invasive surgery. Although the benefits are significant, there are ionizing radiation risks associated with every imaging exam that needs to be considered. Our SOSCIP project is to implement a proof-of-concept decision support system for improved radiation benefit-risk-dialogue. We are using the SOSCIP platform to analyze imaging and health records to develop the low-dose radiation risk model used in the decision support system.

My project supervisor is Dr. Girma Bitsuamlak and our SOSCIP research project is the modeling of urban wind flow and its interaction with buildings and their components using high performance computing.

  1. Why were you interested in participating in the 3-MI session? What did you learn from that experience?

Boursalie: I find that presenting my research gives me perspective and new insights on my research challenge. Entering the 3-MI competition gave me the opportunity to step back and ask myself: “What is really important about my research?” I now have a better understanding of my project which I can use when preparing future presentations and papers.

Adamek: I feel that publicly presenting my work to an audience outside of my discipline helps to clearly identify what I am doing and why it relates to people. I have learned that talking about my work can provide inspirational feedback from unexpected places. By pushing myself to relate to different audiences, I have found new perspectives and at times new avenues of research to pursue.

  1. Describe your approach for presenting the impact/results of your research.

Boursalie:  My strategy was to present my work in a way that was engaging to an audience with various technical and knowledge backgrounds. I received a lot of positive feedback at the SOSCIP Impact Conference and from IBM Canada and McMaster University. The exposure from the competition gave me the opportunity to discuss my research with many people at IBM and McMaster who are interested in the project. 

Adamek: Participating in the 3-MI was and eye-opening experience for me. To generate interest in my topic, I began by describing an aspect of my research that people could relate to. Following this, I emphasized the problem, its solutions and concluded with how my research contributes to these solutions. The major impact of my research applies to architectural and engineering practices where wind needs to be understood so that it can be applied to the design of buildings and entire cities. Individuals inside and outside of my discipline responded with excitement and were interested to know more about my work and the work of my research group. People had many suggestions and comments on how to further my work.

  1. What advice would you give to other trainees on the importance of communicating/presenting research impact/milestones?

Boursalie: The best presentations I have seen use an analogy to describe their research problem. An analogy is a powerful tool that allows your audience to better understand your problem even if they don’t have the research background.

Adamek: It is very important to consistently speak about your work out loud. By improving your communication skills and tweaking your content so that it can be relevant to any audience, allows the impact of your research to expand. It is always good to get an outsider’s perspective on your work. Keep talking and asking questions.

  1. What prizes/benefits did you take away from the competition?

Boursalie: I received three prizes: 1) 10 hours of IBM mentoring; 2) access to IBM software; and 3) an invitation to attend IBM’s CASCON conference. The IBM mentors provided me an invaluable opportunity to develop my professional skills such as leadership, networking, career planning and time management. It was a fantastic experience meeting senior IBMers and having the opportunity to learn from them.

Adamek: I placed second and was presented with a pass to attend the Ontario Centers of Excellence Discovery Conference in Toronto, as well as 10 hours of mentorship from a business development manager and HPC expert at OCE. Access to this conference and this mentorship has allowed me to consider the end goals of my research and had taught me how to perceive research from a variety of perspectives.