Mathematics of Information Technology & Complex Systems (MITACS), a federally-funded Network of Centres of Excellence (NCE), recently opened an office at York University to connect graduate students and post-doctoral fellows with companies in need of research solutions.
Graduate students and faculty can apply for a four-month internship to do research in anything from nursing, computer science and engineering to biology, anthropology and social work through MITACS’ ACCELERATE Ontario program.
"One half of the intern’s time over the four months is spent on site with the partner company, interacting with staff, collecting data and furthering their understanding of the challenge," said Arvind Gupta, CEO & scientific director of MITACS. "The remainder of the intern’s time is spent at their university, developing a new tool, technique, methodology or solution to the partner company’s research challenge."
Right: Arvind Gupta
MITACS works with York faculty to define a research problem suitable for a graduate internship and to help identify potential company partners. The internship is done under the guidance of a supervising professor. The MITACS office at York, which opened in June, houses the network’s Toronto-based staff.
It is the mission of the business development staff members – with their diverse background in information technology, business, biotechnology and chemistry – to promote the Ontario graduate research internship program throughout the GTA. They also help university-based researchers identify companies that may be interested in their research.
"Graduate interns benefit from the opportunity to apply their research skills to real-world challenges; companies benefit from accessing the vast intellectual capital within the province’s universities while connecting with potential future employees," Gupta said. "Not to be forgotten are faculty members, who use the program as a novel, low-cost way to engage a potential long-term industry partner."
"The MITACS program has proven itself to be a great success in not only enhancing research opportunities for graduate students but in bringing their research to the attention of those groups in society that benefit most from that research," said Douglas Peers, dean of York’s Faculty of Graduate Studies. "While the program is best known for fostering linkages between science and industry, it is also committed to forging partnerships between other disciplines within the University and interested parties in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors."
For each four-month internship, the partner company contributes $7,500, which is matched by ACCELERATE Ontario through the support of the provincial government, the NCE and the Natural Sciences & Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). ACCELERATE Ontario recently received over $16 million from the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities.
That means a $15,000 research grant goes to the intern’s supervising professor with the intern receiving a minimum of $10,000 for the four months. The remaining $5,000 can go toward items such as intern travel, computer equipment and laboratory materials.
Professor Huaxiong Huang, Department of Mathematics & Statistics, Faculty of Science & Engineering, is the Ontario scientific director of MITACS. He worked with Sheila Embleton, York VP academic, to bring the office to the University.
MITACS established the first internship program in 2003 to connect graduate students and their professors with companies to facilitate knowledge transfer and introduce the private sector to the research expertise in Canada’s universities.