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UTSG: Undergraduate research in Computer Science Conference

Interested in computer science research? The Undergraduate Research in Computer Science Conference (UrCSC) – taking place on September 13 – will be bringing together undergraduates to present and discuss computer science research!

UTSG: NeurotechUofT HackTernoons

Make epic brain hacks with NeurotechUofT! We’ll bring out our Muse, Neurosky, OpenBCI, and Emotiv EPOC+ headsets. Meet our competition teams and work alongside them on awesome BCI solutions.

No coding experience required! Coffee and Donuts are provided. ☕ 🍩

Featuring:
– Learn-to-code circle
– Maker table, with Cortical Apps Project Incubator
– >10 Consumer market EEG headsets
– Mentorship from students in neurotech research and industry

UTSG: NeurotechUofT HackTernoons

Make epic brain hacks with NeurotechUofT! We’ll bring out our Muse, Neurosky, OpenBCI, and Emotiv EPOC+ headsets. Meet our competition teams and work alongside them on awesome BCI solutions.

No coding experience required! Coffee and Donuts are provided. ☕ 🍩

Featuring:
– Learn-to-code circle
– Maker table, with Cortical Apps Project Incubator
– >10 Consumer market EEG headsets
– Mentorship from students in neurotech research and industry

How to survive a lab

Tips and tricks for scientific success

How to survive a lab

What are labs? Awful three-hour block of red in your timetable starting at 9:00 am on Mondays? A torture chamber for life sciences students? Not always! Yes, labs are terrifying. Yes, they are often a lot of work. But they can also be fun if you know what you’re doing. 

I had so many questions before my first lab: What do I do during the lab? What am I supposed to do before a lab? Why is a lab worth 25 per cent of my grade? But I’m here to tell you to relax, firstyear life sciences students. All you have to do is read up on how to survive your first lab and maybe, just maybe, you’ll even enjoy it.

1. Be prepared

Do your pre-lab readings and prepare your notebook! Preparing for labs not only means that you will ace your pre-lab quiz, but it will also make the lab work feel like smooth sailing — which is the best feeling ever, trust me. You’ll thank yourself when you’re done ahead of time while everyone else is still confused and running after your teaching assistant.

2. Don’t do lab on an empty stomach and four hours of sleep

Get some sleep, caffeine, and breakfast. Imagine trying to get through a three-hour lab with a grumbling stomach and constant yawning. You’re just asking to break that watch glass, miss an observation, or forget a crucial step — and, consequently, redo your trial. Instead, be nice to yourself and go to bed!

3. Write everything down

You have a lab notebook for a reason — use it! Write down all the steps, record all reagents and materials used, observations made, and data recorded. Not only because it’s worth marks, but also because it will help you in solving your post-lab blue sheet, writing your discussion and reviewing for exams; yes, you can be tested on your labs.

4. Start early, and don’t be afraid to ask for help

Nothing is more stressful than sitting down the night before and struggling — and maybe crying — over pre-lab problems that you could have solved a week ago at your teaching assistant’s drop-in office hours. They are an awesome bunch and always willing to help, you simply have to reach out.

5. Have fun!

Very cliché, but very true. Get close to your lab partners. You don’t have to be best friends, though you absolutely can be, but say “hi” outside of the lab and work together on those pre-labs. Get to know your teaching assistant as well. They’re super involved in some really cool research in your area of study and are usually very willing to share. Connect and enjoy!

UTSG: NeurotechUofT HackTernoons

Make epic brain hacks with NeurotechUofT! We’ll bring out our Muse, Neurosky, OpenBCI, and Emotiv EPOC+ headsets. Meet our competition teams and work alongside them on awesome BCI solutions.

No coding experience required! Coffee and Donuts are provided. ☕ 🍩

Featuring:
– Learn-to-code circle
– Maker table, with Cortical Apps Project Incubator
– >10 Consumer market EEG headsets
– Mentorship from students in neurotech research and industry

Dunlap Institute celebrates 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 Moon landing

SpaceTime event featured talks, games to commemorate first spaceflight to land humans on the Moon

Dunlap Institute celebrates 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 Moon landing

On Saturday, July 20, U of T’s Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing with a SpaceTime event at the Daniels Spectrum.

The public event took place precisely 50 years to the day that astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to take “one small step” onto the lunar surface at the climax of the Apollo 11 mission. Accordingly, the event focused on milestones in crewed space exploration, particularly surrounding the moons of our solar system.

The key attractions were three talks presented by experts in the space industry and academia. Interspersed between the talks were shorter anecdotes on spaceflight, chosen to augment the main features. Audience members were also able to participate through show-style games involving trivia and artwork.

The evening’s first speaker was William Maxwell King, a Master of Applied Science candidate at the U of T Institute for Aerospace Studies.

King’s presentation was titled “Spaceflight: A Human History,” and took the audience on a journey from the first rockets to the first Moon landing. Beginning with the origins of modern rocketry in the aftermath of World War II, the accompanying slideshow featured photographs of early rockets such as the United States’ Bumper 2, which was based on the German V-2 rocket. Similar pictures showed early Soviet successes in space before the triumph of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)’s Apollo program.

King selected a historical angle for his talk to showcase the incredible progress that human ingenuity made over a very short span of time.

“I think the lesson that I see in the Apollo legacy is that there is no challenge too great to tackle,” wrote King in an email to The Varsity. “Especially as our world faces catastrophic issues such as climate change, the Apollo program shows that we can indeed construct technological solutions to seemingly impossible problems.”

The second talk was thematically closer to the present day, as Dr. Jamil Shariff, an engineer at MDA Corporation, an aerospace company, presented the opportunities that the Moon will allow humanity in the near future.

In his talk titled “The Moon: A Gateway to the Future,” Shariff went into detail on the Lunar Gateway Project, an international collaboration to build a permanent space station in the moon’s orbit. Shariff particularly highlighted Deep Space Exploration Robotics (DSXR), which is Canada’s planned contribution to the endeavour. 

The Canadian Space Agency and MDA Corporation have developed concepts for a new pair of robotic arms — the large eXploration Large Arm (XLA), and small eXploration Dextrous Arm (XDA) — for use on the Lunar Gateway. The arms will be analogous follow-ups to the large Canadarm2 and small Dextre arms that currently service the International Space Station.

“The relatively careful, stepwise approach that NASA/ESA/CSA/Roscosmos are taking with the Lunar Gateway is to use ‘cislunar space’ (the space between the Earth and the Moon) as a proving ground,” wrote Shariff in an email to The Varsity.

“In this environment, the effects of long term habitation in space and increased radiation exposure can be studied and mitigated. Experience can be gained operating in a self-sustaining manner with no resupply from, and limited communication with, Earth.”

Information gained from studies along this vein could be applied to hypothetical missions such as crewed deep space explorations and Martian missions.

Closing the evening was Dr. Michael Reid, an Associate Professor and the Coordinator of Public Outreach and Education at the Dunlap Institute. Unlike the previous two speakers, Reid was less focused on the Moon, as a definite and singular, in favour of moons, as indefinite and plural concepts.

Reid’s talk, titled “To the Moons,” advocated for increased interest in the many natural satellites of our solar system, which number in the hundreds, instead of continued fixation on our eight neighbouring planets. Reid used slideshows of photographs to argue that exploration of nearby moons would provide a broader understanding of the possibilities that alien worlds hold. 

Saturn’s moon Titan was in particular focus during the presentation, given its thick atmosphere and liquid oceans of water and hydrocarbons. Combined with an atmospheric pressure and low gravity that is favourable to humans, Reid cited it as an example of a nearby celestial body which could prove agreeable to colonization.

“What I was trying to do was encourage people to think about places in the solar system we could go beyond planets,” said Reid in an interview with The Varsity. “Titan is one really good example, particularly if you’re thinking about human colonization or travel. But it’s only one, right? There are other places you could go depending on your motives. In general… the places in the solar system that might [possibly] be compatible with life are probably actually not planets.”

Despite the astronomical subject matter of the talks, the Dunlap Institute made it clear in advance and during the event that people of all educational backgrounds, including children, were welcome.

“I think the easiest way for laypeople to get involved with space exploration is to come to events like this,” wrote Master of Ceremonies Dr. Mubdi Rahman, a Project Scientist in the Dunlap Institute, in an email to The Varsity.

“[These events are opportunities] to actually chat with people actively working in the field, and there are often surprising collaborations that come out of these meetings.”

Enlightened minds, illuminated research

How the AGO’s art inspires researchers at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre

Enlightened minds, illuminated research

What does scientific discourse have to do with artistic expression? For a research team at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, the answer is “everything.”

We once thought of our right and left brains as separate forces responsible for logical and creative thought, respectively. But scientific progress has shown us otherwise, as mental processes require that the whole brain works together in harmony to approach a task.

Just as the corpus callosum brings our hemispheres together as a band of nerve fibres, so too should science and art harmonize — so believes Dr. Mathieu Lupien, a Senior Scientist at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. 

Lupien incorporates art into his professional sphere to generate creative discourse between his close-knit team of researchers. He offers a unique approach to team-building by inviting his team to take a stroll through the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Each team member takes the time to walk through and choose a piece of artwork that speaks to them. Lupien then has the team come together as a group to share their chosen piece and engage in dialogue about what inspired them.

“I get to see the world from their perspective and they get to see mine from theirs,” said Lupien in an interview with The Varsity. The process helps the researchers better understand how they see the world through different lenses.

Lupien expresses that this is an exercise in using something creative, like art, to share who we are as scientists. It gives the team a glimpse into each other’s worlds. For example, if a member really enjoys the intricate detail in a piece, we can understand that the fine details they reflect in their own work are something they value. This helps us interpret the work they do in a more meaningful way.

“Our imagination is the only way to explore the unknown,” said Lupien. “We are working in uncharted territory sometimes, so creating an environment that is conducive to open, creative thought is important for our work.”

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How can students integrate art and science into their own research methods?

Lupien describes that translating scientific works in an intelligible way is an art in itself. Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics can be highly complex areas, full of jargon which can be intimidating for many students interested in the field. Using creative expression is one way to translate complexities in an imaginative way.

He demonstrates this idea in his description of his research on epigenetics: the study of how the activity of our genes can change, without changing our DNA sequences. He describes the genome as six billion letters of DNA that form words that are different in nature. When they are organized into sentences, each of them tells a unique story.

In order to form specific parts of our body, such as muscle and brain tissue, we organize our genome, represented here as letters, in different ways to create distinct sentences. The folding process is guided by epigenetic events, or post-it notes, which highlight the regions of our genome that need to be read.

Perhaps we can say that art relates in the same way. Each stroke of the brush or strike of the pen creates a unique image, and the artist goes over certain areas of the painting with these tools to highlight parts of the piece. Sometimes this disrupts the image, which can create chaos. Other times, this enhances the image with clarity.

Like epigenetics, one must follow these fine lines or broad strokes to understand how the larger image, or genome, has come to be. Lupien emphasizes that fostering creative thought can open a world of possibilities for all walks of life. “Bringing these values into your everyday practice as a researcher can serve to nourish your approach to work,” he said.

Experiencing art can also serve as time for our ideas to incubate, perhaps creating a period of unconscious processing for approaching problems in research. Taking from the famous 1929 works of Graham Wallas, The Art of Thought, incubation allows us to process problems in a manner whereby no direct effort is exerted.

We can optimize the way we process pre-existing knowledge by exposing ourselves to creative mediums such as art. This may lead to new approaches in scientific work. Ultimately, generating a scientific discourse with the expression of art can bring forth creative magic that inspires research. 

“In research, there are two things of value — there is knowledge and creativity,” said Lupien.

“You need to have balance. Never shy away from engaging in creative thought. You never know where it will take you.”

Lecture: Corporate Social Responsibility in the Era of A.I.

The lecture, addressing corporate social responsibility in business ethics, will be delivered by Michael Motala, an Ethics of Artificial Intelligence Graduate Research Fellow at U of T’s Centre for Ethics and PhD student in political science.