Computing Alumni Panel Held at Homecoming 2017

On Friday October 13th, a group of Alumni from the School of Computing presented a panel session to share their experiences in the field. Panelists included the following alumni:

Danielle Pace (’07) – PhD student, Computer Science, MIT
Danielle is a Biomedical Computing Alum. After completing a Masters in Biomedical Engineering at Western, she then worked for 3 years as a R&D Engineer in Medical Computing at Kitware Inc. in North Carolina. She is currently working on her PhD in medical image analysis at MIT.

Jing Xiang (’08) – Post-doctoral Researcher, Machine Learning, Carnegie Mellon University
Jing is a Queen’s Biomedical Computing Alum. She then went on to do her Master’s in medical imaging at the University of British Columbia. She recently finished her PhD working at the intersection of machine learning and computational genomics at CMU, and is continuing for a post-doc there. She is a climber, skier and is also interested in photography and visual art.

Nick Laan (’08) – Computer Science Teacher, Limestone District School Board
Nick is a Queen’s Biomedical Computing alum. He got is B. Ed. at Queen’s in 2009. As part of his undergraduate degree Nick spent a year working at IBM. in Toronto for their e-Commerce division. In the education field he has experience teaching computer programming, computer engineering, math, science, lego robot competitions, Ontario skills competitions, arduino’s, raspberry pi’s and working with at risk youth.

Suchita Ganesan (’16) – Software Developer, Zeligsoft
Suchita is a Queen’s Computing alum. She completed her undergrad in Computer Science & Engineering from Chennai, India in 2014. She went on to pursue her masters in computing, specializing in software modeling from the MASE (Modeling & Analysis in Software Engineering) research lab at Queen’s. She currently works as a Software Developer at Zeligsoft in Gatineau.

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Queen’s Computing Newsletter 2017 Now Available

The 2017 Queen’s Computing Newsletter is now available. View it below, download the PDF, or look for it in print in the Goodwin 5th floor foyer or the main office.


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Queen’s Computing at the Ontario University Fair

Staff and student volunteers returned this week after a successful showing at the Ontario University Fair in the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. The level of interest in Computing was phenomenal.

As always, Computing was well-represented, with faculty, staff, and many student volunteers:

  • Wendy Powley
  • Karen Knight
  • Ben Hall
  • Grace Underwood
  • Alex Wojaczek
  • Mark Asselin
  • Hillary Lia
  • Tiffany Chan

This year’s OUF saw almost 140,000 students attend over the three days. (Over 33,000 on Friday, nearly 60,000 on Saturday, and almost 50,000 on the Sunday.)

This was Karen’s first trip to the OUF, arriving on the evening of the add/drop date, no less. She did a fantastic job for the School at the OUF, and arranged for the volunteers. She and Wendy both spent all day Saturday, the busiest day, at the OUF.


Photos by Ben Hall

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Afternoon of Appreciation for Selim Akl

Faculty, staff, students, and friends gathered at the University Club on Thursday afternoon to celebrate Selim Akl, his achievements, and his service to the School.

“I would like to thank everyone who attended last Thursday’s event,” Akl said. “It was wonderful to see all your smiling faces on this happy occasion. Your presence meant a great deal to me. Thank you also to those who sent regrets for the kind thoughts they expressed.”

Speakers at the event included Tom Bradshaw, Alex Wojaczek, Roel Vertegaal, and current Director Hossam Hassanein, who presented Akl with a gift from the School. We wish Selim all the best in his future endeavors.


Photos by Doug Martin

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Gehan Selim, Jim Cordy and Juergen Dingel Awarded Best Paper at MODELS 2017

Congrats to Gehan Selim, Jim Cordy and Juergen Dingel who were awarded a Best Paper award for their Foundations Track paper, “How is ATL really used? Language feature use in the ATL Zoo” at MODELS 2017, the 20th International Conference on Model Driven Engineering Languages and Systems, in Austin, Texas.

MODELS is the premiere international conference in model-driven engineering.

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New Arts & Science Dean Barbara Crow Visits the School of Computing

On Wednesday, incoming dean of the Faculty of Arts and Science Barbara Crow, along with Associate Dean Nick Mosey, visited the School for a tour of the Perk, Medical Informatics, Human Media, and EQUIS labs.

“I appreciated the breadth of your areas of study and commitment to Computing,” Crow said. “I was very impressed with the Labs and how articulate the students were about their participation in research projects.”


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How Queen’s School of Computing Has Been Readying Aspiring Computer Science Professionals For Careers in Technology for Nearly 50 Years

Layan Nahlawi and Director Hossam Hassanein spoke to about the School’s programs and atmosphere, as well as the importance of Computing in today’s world.

From the article:

For nearly five decades, Queen’s School of Computing has been laying the foundations for thousands of students looking to jump-start careers in the computer science industry. Known internationally for its diverse educational environment that fosters a family-like atmosphere, the school offers programs in a wide range of IT specialties, including software design, mathematics, computer architecture, and programming, among many others. Maintaining pace with changing markets and technologies, Queen’s School of Computing has evolved its offerings to give aspiring computer science professionals the tools they need to succeed in today’s competitive, tech-focused business environment.

You can read the whole article on their blog at:

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Mayor Paterson and MPP Sophie Kiwala Visit the Perk and HML Labs

Congratulations to the Perk Lab and the Human Media Lab on a very successful and impressive show during Mayor Paterson’s visit last Thursday (Aug 10).

Double Congratulations to the Perk Lab for hosting the visit of MPP Sophie Kiwala on same day, where a COGECO film crew shot an episode for the TV series “Conversations with Sophie”; quoting Ms. Kiwala, “a show featuring some of Kingston’s most inspiring people.” The episode concentrates on NaviKnife, a collaborative project between the School of Computing’s Perk Lab and the Department of Surgery.

The mayor’s visit was also covered in the Gazette.


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Computing Takes Centre Stage in Queen’s Alumni Review

The most recent issue of the Queen’s Alumni Review features a number of stories by and about people in the School and the work they do. The issue includes articles about our very own Wendy Powley and undergraduates in the Sudo community initiative (Annabel Kramer, Karina Kim, Jessica Dassanayake, Melissa Mangos, Daisy Barrette, Cara Falcon, Callum Tomkins-Flanagan, Emily Crawford, Omar Toutounji, and Shubhi Sharma); an article by Director Selim Akl about natural computing; and, of course, a cover story about the Human Media Lab.

Check out the whole issue on the Alumni Review website.

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Roger Browse Bench Dedication Ceremony

On Friday, May 26, faculty, staff, students, along with friends and family of Roger Browse, gathered outside Goodwin Hall to remember him and dedicate a bench in his honour. The bench will sit along Union St for years to come as a place to remember him. Speakers included Robin Dawes (friend and colleague), Max Garcia (4th year Cognitive Science undergraduate), and Brian Butler (co-founder of the Cognitive Science program), who shared a touching eulogy reproduced below. After the ceremony, children Jenn and Robert shared a song written and recorded by Roger as a touching tribute to their father.



A Eulogy for Roger

By Brian Butler

Roger would have hated a eulogy.  In fact, I suspect he would have liked to sneak away so that people simply said, “Oh yeah, Roger-what’s-his-name.  Whatever happened to him anyway?”  However, Roger doesn’t get to vote so this is the eulogy I would have given if I had been asked which I wasn’t but that’s OK.

I knew Roger but I did not know him well until what we called the “Eddy Campbell incident.”  Eddy was assistant Dean and he discovered that the Ontario government under Mike Harris had instituted something called the ATOP program.  This was special financial assistance to university departments through their “Access To Opportunity Program” and rewarded departments for increasing their enrolments in technical programs like Computing.  Queen’s had received lots of money with promises to increase their enrolment – but hadn’t increased their enrolment.  Eddy said, “Get the enrolment up or you will be nothing but a great smoking hole in the ground!”

Great smoking hole in the ground?  OK, let’s boost Cognitive Science.

The program had been there before.  Roger and Doug Mewhort devised it in 1983 and dragged me kicking and screaming to a meeting where it was approved.  And it was very successful.  Most of our students went on to PhDs or extravagantly paid CEO positions in industry but it was small and we had to build it up.

How to build it up?  We invented COGS 100.  We listed a whole bunch of things that we thought were fun and put them into a course.  And we found a textbook by a guy who was as crazy was we were: a philosophy professor who had a laboratory.  It worked.  We used what we called tag-team teaching.  We’d both show up but one would give the lecture; the other would periodically interrupt with counterarguments.  Students loved it and some to this day think we really were at odds with each other.  One student comment said: “They bicker like an old married couple!”  Another said, “My profs are George Lucas and Michael Caine!”  Did Roger really look like Michael Caine?  Well, he had this soft-spoken way of saying “Brian, you’re an asshole.”

Two years after we started COGS 100 – and the course was now up to 100 – we had our usual coffee and a muffin afterwards.  I asked without thinking, “so where did you do your undergraduate?”

Roger said, “Well, I did one year at UNB.  And it’s funny.  There was a guy who compulsively cleaned off the table when he met his friends at the student centre.  His friends would dump ashtrays and other crap on the table just before he got there.”

“Damn it, Roger!  That was me!”

It turned out we had both spent the same year at U.N.B.  I was part of a folk group called the “Newcomers” and our main rivals were another group that included Roger.  In fact, we were both at a party hosted by Bunny Coull and her brother Steve.  We had actually met 40 years before at U.N.B.  — and let me add for further irony — Eddy Campbell is now the principal at U.N.B.  Small world, isn’t it?   Well, it is with academia in Canada.

Roger wasted a year at U.N.B., although it may have been quite effective from a social point of view.  He moved to McGill, got serious and got a degree.  Then worked as a programmer and had a very promising career.  He applied to U.B.C. and got a very good supervisor, Alan Mackworth.  Mackworth’s father, Norman, was famous as a British psychologist who pioneered attention and eye movement studies.  Roger worked with Alan and moonlighted as a programmer for Anne Treisman and Daniel Khaneman’s lab.  Khaneman received the Nobel Prize in 2002. Thus, our LISP expert was slowly lead toward Cognitive Science.

Roger did not mention a lot about his time at U.B.C.  He did mention looking out his apartment window one day and seeing people crawling slowly across the lawn.  Asked, “Why?”, they responded, “Magic mushrooms, man!”  Then there was the Volkswagen.  Like all good students, Roger owned one but it was dying.  He was driving it to the junkyard when a woman rearended him and knocked off his bumper.  He just picked up the bumper, threw it in the back, and said, “Not a problem.”  I’m sure it made her day.

Roger arrived at Queen’s in the early eighties and, oh my, we did need him.  Computing and Information Science (CISC) needed him as an expert LISP programmer and he was.  He could take a 1000 line Fortran program and reduce it to 20 lines of LISP code – maybe 16 if he worked overnight.  He immediately got a cross-appointment to Psychology because he was one of these new-fangled Cognitive Scientists.

In 1985, our mutual friend, Doug Mewhort, was invited to Germany for a year as an international scholar.  They planned a conference on attention and Roger and I were the only Canadians that Doug could think of.  So we packed up and went to Bielefeld, West Germany, by quite different routes.  Roger landed in Amsterdam and rented a car, the only one available at the conference site.  I was desparate for cigarettes so Roger drove me into Bielefeld.  It was a large highway and at one point he said, “Look out.  I’m going to do a Ducarie three lane crossover.”  I was not born in Pointe Claire but I knew what he meant; a brief moment of highway hijinx and we got in the right lane.

In the late eighties, and most of the nineties, Roger settled into a period where his family mattered more than anything else.  He became – I’m sure he’d hate the word – a homebody.  He had children and they were the center of his life.  He told stories of getting up when the children were babies but keeping one eye closed so it would stay dark-adapted while he took care of them.  And changing the lyrics to “Alice’s Restaurant” to “Jennifer’s Restaurant” while he played guitar and sang to her.  Robb and Jennifer were the center of his universe…

… but something happened.

Roger never mentioned the reason for the split in his marriage nor once uttered a word against his ex-wife.  He did complain about lawyers but, like, who doesn’t, eh.  I have no idea of who was right or who was wrong and I always felt that Roger wasn’t sure either.  I do know that the separation from his children was painful.  He moved to Manotick then moved back and all of us, his friends, worried about him.

The big compensation in his life was the expansion of the Cognitive Science program. It started small with 20 – 30 students in COGS 100.  But, damn, what good students they were.  We couldn’t mention anything but one or two of them hadn’t already been on the web checking it out.  Lectures became discussions; discussions became arguments – and students figured “Hey, here are two guys who are enthusiastic about this shit; maybe it’s hot.”

We played it by ear but, damn, it worked.  We showed students what we thought was interesting and they thought it was too.  Our 20 -30 students expanded to 240.  We were one of the stars of 100 level courses.  Why?  A lot of it was our enthusiasm; we liked what we studied and it was contagious.  Another part, we refused to follow a textbook; we did what we thought was important and fun.

We were never ever unfaithful to our discipline but we showed how it could be fun. We argued in front of students to show them there were two points of view.  I remember two Pre-Med students coming up to us and asking, “OK but what is the right answer?”  And we both nodded and said “I don’t know.”  Somewhere in Ontario there are two doctors going, “I still don’t understand!” but there are twenty COGS grads going, “Yeah, I don’t either!”

It is easy to underestimate what Rog and I did.  We taught five COGS courses; COGS 100 and 300, we did as tag-team teaching; COGS 200 was my domain while COGS 400 was his, and we shared COGS 499.  Our dynamic convinced some of the most brilliant computing students to look seriously at cognitive science.  We had fun but, meanwhile, we conveyed that fun to computing and linguistics and, on occasion, a psychology student.  Students to this day rave about the dynamic we created.

In 2014, we both shared a teaching award in the School of Computing for teaching.  Roger had earned it well.  He sent several students to UBC, his alma mater, and they have thanked him for that.  He is credited for inspiring so many students that it make me jealous. But they are right.  Maybe a student had screwed up a few courses – Roger could see that (he had done that!) – so he set them on the straight course. He was good at that.

It was a privilege to work with Roger.  He was not easy; when we disagreed the arguments were hot and heavy – and so much fun!  And there were two occasions when I convinced him I might be right – notice: might – and that was a triumph.  I never did convince him I was right about the Mr. Smith problem but that is for a second lifetime.

He is revered by his students.  I only hope I get a “nice prof

When he got ALS we had a deal: muffins. He liked Tim Horton’s “fruit explosion” and I would order five for him and a Carrot-Wholewheat for me.  I loved dropping over for muffins and we would chat about the damnest things.  Like Bunny Coull’s party and why he got pissed off at the Dean.  He was always true to his values and to his children.  I always asked, “How are the kids?” and it was his time to brag about Robb and Jenn.  Sorry guys, but I have to tell you, you were his world and he loved you so much.  His last words to me were bragging about you both.

I loved your Dad very much but I am not alone.  All his colleagues on the School of Computing website have added their sentiments.  He inspired students and challenged colleagues.  He did his job well and we all love him for it.  I only thank everyone for the ability to express this.  Roger was special.

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