Students unveil AI work during academic research partnership with Ciena


Eight Dawson students have presented the work they have been doing at ScienceFest 2022 as interns as part of DawsonAI’s collaboration with industry partner Ciena, a postdoctoral researcher and university partners from Concordia and ÉTS to promote the study of innovative AI-enabled applications for the future of 5G in Canada.

This is a one-of-a-kind opportunity for college-level students to participate in top-tier research projects and was made possible thanks to a Mitacs Accelerate grant and Dawson’s $1 million investment into AI curriculum.

“The students are trailblazing a future for work-integrated learning experiences that can also provide valuable contributions to research and development,” said Joel Trudeau, Professor in the Physics Department and lead of the DawsonAI Project.

Victor Ponce, Computer Science teacher and academic supervisor of the Mitacs projects, sees a unique opportunity to enrich Dawson students’ academic backgrounds.

“They are augmenting their skills and connecting with other research teams in Universities and with senior developers who also guide them in the best practices in software development. This is a first-of-its-kind project at the college level.”

Enhancing 5G technology

The academic research partnership through the ENCQOR 5G project aims to develop Canada’s 5G ecosystem and provide a faster and better quality of networking services accessible to all Canadians. This research includes using artificial intelligence and machine learning to help automate networking decisions that would otherwise have to be made manually.

Third-year students Emilia Krichevsky and Angela Sposato (Computer Science Technology) have been working with Ciena’s AI Framework team since last summer to explore how to leverage machine learning and improve the way evolving and complex networking systems are handled.

Together, they created an interactive page that allowed their team members to visualize the data about the progress and effectiveness of their machine learning research through which they were able to evaluate algorithmic performance, explained Angela.

“Creating this application helped us have a better understanding of machine learning and the way it is used to help improve networking,” she added.

“From the get-go, I felt that I became a part of a dedicated team of people who were just as passionate about the project as I was,” said Emilia. “My favourite moment (although there are many!) was when Angela and I were commended by our supervisor for the graphical user interface that we developed. It encouraged and motivated me to know that the skills I acquired in my Computer Science classes enabled me to build a tool that the AI team could make use of.”

The internship has provided the students with a glimpse into the real-world application of emerging technologies while allowing them to utilize and deepen their understanding of concepts taught in class such as web development, data communication and networking, Linux and Python which they were then able to incorporate back into their classroom learning.

“I really enjoyed being able to acquire industry experience throughout my final year of CEGEP,” said Angela. “My favourite part about working with Ciena was being able to expand my skill set by building on skills that I learned at Dawson and learning concepts that are not part of the Computer Science curriculum, such as machine learning and graph theory.”

Rerouting in case of failure

Hristo Sandev is a second-year student in the Pure and Applied Science Profile. While he has been religiously attending hackathons and making his own side projects, he shared that being able to experience the day-to-day work in programming has been extremely insightful and educating.

As part of his internship with Ciena, his work has centred around repairing failed connections between routers within an internet network.

He said that the highlight of the experience has been learning how to work with a real-world codebase to attempt to solve a real issue.

A headstart for the future

The students were able to expand their technical and interpersonal skillsets which will benefit a pursuit of a career in software development and beyond.

“The technical and interpersonal skills that I have developed by working with inter-disciplinary teams and industry leaders will serve as a good foundation for my future career in this field,” shared Emilia.

Both Angela and Emilia hope to get involved in more research projects related to AI and to continue their studies in Computer Science at university.

“I’m extremely grateful that I was given such a head start. It’s definitely going to drastically increase my chances to get a really solid university internship in the future,” said Hristo.

“Hopefully, the next stage for me would be involving statistics or machine learning to predict when a link failure would occur,” he added. “The team at Ciena is already working on that, but I’m very interested in their work and I would love to partake in it.”

Last Modified: May 4, 2022