Research Projects

As a research intensive department, we have over 100 graduate students, 21 faculty members, and numerous Research Assistants and Postdoctoral Fellows. While our faculty teach courses, they also carry out research, supervise graduate students, and collaborate with industry. Our research ranges from theoretical computer science to practical applications, leading to solving real world problems. Following is a glimpse at multi-disciplinary research projects. 

Rational Design: The search for materials harder than diamonds


Very recently, a new paradigm has emerged in the design of new materials: rational design. Rational design of materials refers to the use of computer simulation, through solving quantum mechanical models, in order to predict the properties of a material from its atomic structure. The idea is that if a mathematical model can reliably predict the properties of a material, one can use supercomputers to efficiently search the space of possible atoms and their positions to construct materials that have optimal properties. Rational design reduces the propose-test-modify cycle and gets new materials from the laboratory to the marketplace in far less time than traditional methods do. Rational design is already an indispensable part of the aerospace, automotive, and pharmaceutical industries. Using rational deisgn, Dr. Raymond Spiteri and his Simulation Research Lab are researching materials harder than diamonds.  

Project Details

New materials have fed technological innovation throughout human history. A million years ago, humans searched for materials that could burn easily or were harder than rock. Today, the quest is for materials that are harder than diamond, more conductive than silver, or more insulating than aerogel.

The classical way to design materials is through experiments. Experiments are expensive, slow, often hazardous, and require a significant amount of human expertise and intervention. Success can often be directly attributed to the experimentalist and the equipment. However, these two success factors are also the two greatest limitations on the materials that can be discovered.

In this project, we propose to discover new materials that can be fabricated under high pressure and have superior material properties such as hardness, thermal power, ductility, and malleability. A significant advantage of developing our own software for this problem is that we can incorporate aspects like cost of manufacturing or impact on provincial or national economies. So for example, a material it may be more valuable to discover a material that is only 80% as hard as diamond but costs only 20% as much to fabricate.

As a first specific example, we are attempting to design a material that is harder than diamond. We have spent around 10,000 CPU hours (just over 1 CPU-year) on this problem so far (and counting!). The search is made extraordinarily challenging because it is fragile: it is not possible to extract meaningful information from an arbitrary configuration of atoms, i.e., configurations that are too far from something physically reasonable. We expect it will take at least one hundred times more CPU time (so about 1 CPU-century) in order to conduct a reasonably thorough search of the design space. And it is of course not guaranteed we will be successful. That's why it's called research!

Wheelchair-Based Game Design for Older Adults

Few leisure activities are accessible to institutionalized older adults who rely on wheelchairs; in consequence, they experience lower levels of perceived health than able-bodied peers. Video games have been shown to be an engaging leisure activity for older adults. Kathrin Gerling, Michael Kalyn and supervisor, Dr. Regan Mandryk addresses the design of wheelchair accessible motion-based games in their research

Digging Archaeology Data: Image Search and Markup


Dr. Mark Eramian is a member of an international team of researchers who are investigating interactive systems design in conjunction with image processing and text mining techniques to help archaeologists find, organize and analyze the thousands of images and document resources available to them to answer archaeology-based research questions. 

Current archeological data banks are so large that it could take several lifetimes for an archaeologist to find specific answers. Images are typically searched by keyword, which has serious limitations. These searches depend on metadata: descriptive text that is added to the image files when they are uploaded. When an archeologist types in a key word, there are no guarentees that the items they are looking for in the data bank are tagged with the same metatadata keywords, or if the items are even tagged at all. If the quality of the metadata is poor, text-based searches will not suffice. 

Eramian’s contribution is in image analysis, something he has applied to everything from high-resolution ultrasound of the reproductive tract and microscope images of cancer cells, to technology to help farmers seed crops more efficiently. For this project, the challenge will be to create an image-based search that recognizes shapes, even if they are only partially there or seen from different angles. They will need to determine which part of the image actually contains the object, followed by analyzing and recording shape, color and texture properties. 

Hemophilia Injury Recognition Tool


Men with mild forms of the bleeding disorder hemophilia sometimes have trouble telling when an injury may lead to crippling complications like swelling, pain and immobilization. Richard Lomotey, a Computer Science Ph.D. candidate, and his supervisor Dr. Ralph Deter developed a mobile application designed for individuals with hemophilia, a genetic disorder that prevents blood from clotting properly.

The mobile application "HIRT?", the Hemophilia Injury Recognition Tool, allows users to check their symptoms for warning signs, see suggested treatments, then receive alerts to check their injury for changes. It also includes emergency phone numbers for every hemophilia treatment centre across Canada, in case they’re travelling. The application was developed in collaboration with the Saskatchewan Bleeding Disorders Program. 

Augmented Tabletop Embodiments

Andre Doucette's research focuses on human behaviour and how the design of digital systems can affect the mannner people interact with systems. Specifically, this research project investigated how people coordinate the use of physical space above a tabletop, and how it translated into the digital world. From his research, touching digital tabletop embodiments is not as awkward as it is to touch a physical arm. In collaboration with the Human-Computer Interaction Lab, Andre developed a set of augmented tabletop embodiments to try to introduce some of the automatic coordinative benefits of physical arms into digital tabletop systems.