Graduate Speaker Series

The Graduate Speaker Series is a monthly event held at Grad Room. Graduate students from all departments of the University of Toronto are invited to discuss their research and ideas in an environment that encourages interdisciplinary learning and intellectual dialogue.

Every month, Grad Room selects a topic and invites two graduate students to come and present their ideas, their hypotheses and research to a general audience of graduate students. We hope that students will be able to learn about the research in academic disciplines other than their own, and that these discoveries may open doors for interdisciplinary learning and collaborations. For the presenters, it is a great opportunity to improve presentation skills and share research in non-technical terms.

Grad Room hopes to make the Graduate Speaker Series a permanent fixture of its programming, and we hope that students will take the initiative to come talk to other students about their research, their ideas, and their hypotheses.

… So come to the Grad Room and let’s talk!

We are always looking for graduate students to present at the Graduate Speaker Series. All graduate students (Master’s and PhDs) at any stage of their degree are welcome to present. If you are interested in presenting your research at the Graduate Speaker Series, please email Sofiia or Liam at sofiia.ivantsiv@mail.utoronto.ca or liam.oleary@utoronto.ca​​.

Upcoming Talks

COMPARATIVE POLITICS: December 12, 2019

When: December 12, 6 to 7 pm
Where: Grad Room, 66 Harbord Street

Register

Our last session of the Fall semester will be discussing Party competitions in Multi-National Federations and The Military and Post-Conflict Governance in Uganda and Rwanda. Our two speakers from the Department of Political Sciences will be discussing their research. As always, pizza will be provided.

Gerald Bareebe, PhD candidate (Department of Political Science) and Zain Asaf, PhD candidate (Department of Political Science)


Past Talks

VACCINES, BACTERIA & ORGANIZATION OF A HUMAN CELL: November 28, 2019

Chidozie Ojobor, PhD candidate (Department of Molecular Genetics), Christopher Go, PhD candidate (Department of Molecular Genetics), Brandon McLeod, PhD candidate (Department of Biochemistry)

BIOETHICS: OCTOBER 17, 2019

When: October 17, 6 to 7 pm
Where: Grad Room, 66 Harbord Street

The October 2019 session focuses on the topic of Bioethics. Saumil Dholakia from the Dalla Lana School of Public Health will present his research on the intersection of Bioethics and Psychiatry. Q&A to follow. Pizza will be provided as always.

Saumil Dholakia, MBBS, MD (psych), PG (Diploma) Bioethics, MHSc (Bioethics) (Dalla Lana School of Public Health)

SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT AND INFORMATION SECURITY: SEPTEMBER 27, 2019

When: September 27, 6 to 7 pm
Where: Grad Room, 66 Harbord Street

Jack Jamieson, PhD candidate (Faculty of Information)

Software development as critical research method: Investigating values and design in alternative web systems” Amidst concerns about the extent to which a small number of platforms dominate the global Internet, one response has been to built alternative platforms and social media infrastructures. In large part, these alternatives reflect commitments to values like freedom of expression, privacy, tolerance, equality, and openness. What is involved in building alternative internet technologies that reflect their creators’ values? This talk presents an account of developing software as a method for addressing this question. Part of my dissertation research has been to make software alongside a community of developers building alternatives to the corporate dominated Web. I argue that making can span disciplinary boundaries between technology and culture, and that crossing those boundaries is vital for addressing social issues in the design of the internet. I introduce the theoretical foundations that inform this method, describe key moments in investigation, and reflect upon opportunities, challenges, and responsibilities that making poses for researchers.

Alex Dean Cybulski, PhD candidate (Faculty of Information)

The hacker’s work is finished, but mine is only just beginning”: Using Ethnographic Methods to Investigate Play, Labour and Education in Hacker Competitions” Capture the flag (CTF) is a competitive game in which players mimic the experience of discovering and exploiting vulnerabilities in information systems, hacking into simulated software and/or networks to retrieve data known as a ‘flag.’ The organization and play of CTFs relies extensively on the “commons-based peer production” (Benkler, 2006, p.60) of information security knowledge, skills and software freely and openly shared amongst the hacker community. CTF participants are often already familiar with the resources used by their community as they also draw on it in their careers as IT professionals and computer scientists. In this way, CTFs can be understood to serve as a kind of “cultural infrastructure” (Turner, 2009, p.75) within the hacking community, a game which reproduces the exchange of information security tradecraft through the resources required for the design and play of CTFs. The laborious play of CTFs and their competitive nature supports previously observed liberal tendencies around meritocracy and work within hacker culture (Coleman & Golub, 2008). In this presentation will outline how I apply ethnographic methods including semi-structured interviews and observation with CTF designers and competitors to understand the resources these participants draw on for these games, how it impacts their education, careers and interpersonal relationships. In addition, these methods are also intended to allow members of the hacking community to explain, in their own words, how hacking can be understood as a fun and playful activity.

CROSS-CULTURAL COMMUNICATION IN HISTORY: AUGUST 15, 2019

When: August 15, 6 to 7 pm
Where: Grad Room, 66 Harbord Street

We will be discussing colonialism of the Old and the New Worlds. Our first speaker from the Centre of Comparative Literature will present her work on Cross-Cultural communication from Arabic to Spanish in the 13th century and from Spanish to Yucatec Mayan between the 16th to 18th centuries. Our second speaker from the Department of Classics will discuss his work on Roman history.

Speakers:
Paula Karger, PhD candidate, Centre of Comparative Literature

“The Educated Maiden’s Suggestions for Cross-Cultural Communication: Comparisons of a Story’s Transformation”

From articles to books to movies to TV shows to music to interpersonal interactions, we are surrounded by a constantly growing multitude of languages and ideas. How do we bring these ideas into our contexts for our understanding? How do we negotiate differences in language and in systems of knowledge, especially given disparities of power and influence? To explore these questions, I compare renditions of a story that went from Arabic to Spanish in the thirteenth century and from Spanish to Yucatec Mayan between the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries. The differences and similarities between versions of the story reveal strategies of intercultural transfer that reflect those used today. Due to the historical distance, however, this analysis is also able to examine the impact of unequal power relations in the transfer of information, offering insights into the potential role of twenty-first-century political relationships in intercultural contact. Moreover, in encapsulating and exemplifying various practices of knowledge transfer, the many versions of the story offer refreshing and useful possibilities for present-day cross-cultural communication.

Drew Davis, PhD candidate, Department of Classics

“Built with Public Money: The Power of Municipal Economies in Late Republican Rome.”

GLOBAL RISK: JULY 2019

Speaker:
Amir Abdul Reda
PhD candidate, Department of Political Science

“One Index to Rule Them All: Quantifying Social Movement Theories to Predict Political Risk”

How can we measure the resource mobilization efforts of social movements on Twitter? Why do individuals flock to mobilize for social movements on this platform? In this paper, we create the first ever measure of social movements’ resource mobilization efforts and set the first ever roadmap for measuring key components of all three Social Movement Theories. In this aim, we do two things: first, we develop new tools for measuring and analyzing tweets that seek to gather resources for social movements on Twitter. We create a four-conditional lexicon that can parse through tweets and identify tweets about resource mobilization. We also create a simple resource mobilization score that can be plotted in a time series format to track the resource mobilization efforts of social movements in real time. Second, we use our tools with millions of tweets from the United States of America streamed between November 28, 2018 and February 11, 2019 to show how our measure can help us measure social movements’ resource mobilization efforts and understand the type of issues that drive individuals to mobilize on Twitter. We find eleven such issues for this timeframe, the most salient of which were Ted Cruz’s campaign for Congressional Amendment, the Women’s March, the UTLA and education related strikes, and the campaign in support of the Covington High School students.

SACRIFICE, GENDER AND DEVELOPMENT WITHIN ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIPS: JUNE 2019

Speaker:
Rebecca Horne, MSc., PhD candidate,
Relationships and Well-Being (RAW) Lab, Department of Psychology

“The sex was good–no–GREAT! Emotion regulation during sex & sexual and relationship well-being”

Romantic partners often regulate their emotions to achieve certain goals during their interactions, which involves influencing the type, timing, experience, and–importantly–expression of certain emotions (Gross, 2015). However, we know little about the implications of partners’ emotion regulation in one specific and important relationship domain: namely, during sex. Yet exploring these processes within the domain of sexuality is important, as it is a particularly emotional and sensitive context that may evoke a strong desire to exaggerate or conceal feelings. In this talk, I discuss two forms of emotion regulation (i.e., positive emotion amplification and negative emotion suppression) during sex and how these behaviors are linked to sexual satisfaction, relationship satisfaction, and relationship (in)stability in established romantic relationships.

THE IMPORTANCE OF ENVIRONMENT, MOTHERS AND TEACHERS IN CHILD LEARNING: MAY 2019

Speakers:
Indika Somir, MA Candidate
(Department of Developmental Psychology and Education, OISE)

“Less is More: The Effect of Cumulative Risk on Children’s Learning”  

Risk factors are associated with a higher likelihood of negative consequences. Research suggests that most children are exposed to one risk factor, if not multiple, that result in long-lasting developmental outcomes. How do these risks affect a child’s educational experience? In this talk, I will discuss the importance of early education in child development, and the role of risk factors in child learning. I will then discuss successful interventions to address children at risk for failing in school. Lastly, I will speak about my research, where I investigate how socioemotional learning interacts with family risk factors to affect the academic performance of children. Ultimately, I hope to help the audience understand how they can better support the educational journeys of the children around them.  

Rashmee Karnad – Jani, PhD Candidate
(Department of Leadership, Higher and Adult Education, OISE)

“Invisible Work and Hidden Labour in Ontario’s Public Education. A Decolonizing Institutional Ethnography of Mothering and Teachers’ Work”  

Ontario’s Ministry of Education coordinates the various aspects of the K-12 education through policy texts, curriculum documents, informational texts and policy instruments addressing a wide range of topics through its Capacity Building Series. Smith (2001) argues that “texts and documents are essential to the objectification of organizations and institutions and how they exist as such” (p.160). One such key text, Parents in Partnership: A Parent Engagement Policy for Ontario Schools (2010) asserts a view of how parents must interact with schooling in Ontario. It posits that when “parents are engaged and involved, everyone – students, parents and families, teachers, schools and communities – benefits, and our schools become increasingly rich and positive places to teach, learn and grow” (p.5). The Parental Engagement Policy re-appears in all subject based curriculum documents of the OMOE, and using gender-neutral language, lays out the roles that parents must perform in order to support student achievement and learning.   My research examines the gendered work of women for schooling & teachers’ labour in GTA schools within the framework of Ontario’s Parent Engagement Policy through multilingual in-depth interviews. This study will explore ways in which mothers and teachers of students in Grade 4 to 6 educators do their educational work. It will also consider factors such as Ontario’s current political climate within which the educational work gets done.   ​

EXOPLANETS: APRIL 2019

Speakers:
Emily Deibert, PhD candidate
(Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics/The Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics)

“A New Window on Exoplanet Atmospheres”

Thousands of exoplanets have been discovered, but how much do we really know about these alien worlds? Cutting-edge advances in both space- and ground-based telescopes mean that astronomers are poised to move from this era of exoplanet discovery into an era of exoplanet characterization, the first step of which will be studying and understanding exoplanetary atmospheres. An exoplanet’s atmosphere can reveal which atoms and molecules are present on the planet, providing clues as to whether or not it might be able to support life. In this talk I will discuss the methods we use to detect exoplanets, and how we can take advantage of those methods to learn more about the atmospheres
surrounding these strange new worlds. I will then focus on the most promising observational missions being planned and how these will help us open a new window on exoplanet atmospheres. Ultimately, this will give us both a better understanding of the worlds around us as well as how our own planet Earth fits into the Universe.

Adiv Paradise, Ph.D candidate
(Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics)

“Telescope Earth: Using Climate Here to Understand Worlds Out There”

The last two decades have delivered over 3000 confirmed planets around other stars, some of which are Earth-sized. Yet, we know next to nothing about these planets. The next 3 decades of planetary science will be defined by the attempt to determine what these planets are actually like, and whether some of them might be able to support life. I will describe how we can use computer models of Earth’s climate to learn how climate and weather depend on a planet’s basic properties, and what that
means for what we’ll find out there.

CIRCADIAN RHYTHMS: MARCH 2019

The March 14, 2019 session of the Graduate Speaker Series discussed the role of Circadian rhythm. Graduate Speaker Series will be collaborating with Raw Talk Podcast and would like to welcome Dr. Richie Jeremian, from the institute of Medical Sciences who will be presenting his research on Circadian rhythms. Event will take place at the lower level of the Grad Room (66 Harbord Street) from 6-7.30pm. All graduate students at the University of Toronto regardless of their academic background are encouraged to attend the event!

Speakers:
Richie Jeremian, PhD Postdoctoral fellow,
Petronis Lab, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Institute of Medical Science

“What makes the world tick? A brief introduction to circadian rhythm”

Throughout its lifespan, the earth has undergone many transformations to resemble the planet we know and love today. One thing that has remained constant, however, is the planet’s relationship to the sun, a massive source of light that is responsible for giving rhythmicity to the earth’s seasons and days. As a consequence, nearly all forms of life have co-evolved mechanisms that allow them to tolerate and thrive in environments where light cycles between day and night —  these mechanisms follow an approximately 24-hour cycle and make up the basis of circadian rhythm. For modern humans, circadian rhythm is an important component of day-to-day function, and has implications on nearly all facets of behaviour, health and disease — mood, sleep, dietary habits, impulsivity, hormonal function are just a few far-reaching implications of having a well-tuned internal clock.

PSYCHOLOGY OF LEARNING & MEMORY: FEBRUARY 2019

The February 2019 session of the Graduate Speaker Series will be held on Thursday, February 14, 2019 from 6 pm to 7:30 pm at the Grad Room. Our topic of discussion will be memory. This is the first event for the Winter 2019 term. As always there will be pizza served during the event. There will be two graduate students from the Department of Psychology that will present their research work, which will be followed by Q&A. The presentations will focus on memory-driven attention and Digital Memory Augmentation (DMA) program for improvement of Autobiographical memory (AM).

Manda Fischer, MA candidate
(Department of Psychology)

“Does everyday auditory experience facilitate memory-driven attention?”

We may take an everyday task, such as listening at the dinner table, for granted, but the very act of making sense of what we hear is quite complicated. Previous research has shown that our experiences can guide our attention which, in turn, may help us to isolate the different competing sounds in the environment. For example, one may not notice that one’s brother always sits on the left at the dinner table, but over time an association will be formed that makes it easier to isolate this voice from the surrounding sound mixture. Although it has been shown that visual memory can guide attention, very little is known about whether auditory memory can bias attention in hearing. Zimmermann et al. (2017) were the first to show that deliberately forming associations can enable memory to bias attention. It is unclear, however, if this effect holds in natural everyday listening situations in which associations are learned incidentally (unconsciously). Therefore, this project aims to test whether associations of which one is not aware can guide attention to help one better understand what one hears.

Memory-guided auditory attention is a largely unexplored area. Further elucidating the link between memory and attention will help us better understand memory as a dynamic system that can benefit from, and contribute to, attentional processes. The fact that the experiment examines more natural listening situations will enable us, also, to adapt it to the world outside the laboratory to aid people with peripheral or central hearing impairment caused by aging, dementia, or trauma.

Bryan Hong, MA candidate
(Department of Psychology)

“Developing a novel digital memory augmentation program for older adults”

Autobiographical memory (AM) is memory for information about one’s self. It can be broadly subdivided into (1) an episodic sub-component, referring to details about specific events in one’s life, and (2) a semantic sub-component, referring to details about personal information that extends across time. Research suggests that episodic AM is more vulnerable to age-related memory decline than semantic AM. One promising approach to mitigating this episodic AM loss is digital memory augmentation (DMA), where portable devices are used to record information from day-to-day life to assist in later recollection. In our current research project, we developed a novel DMA application for smartphone devices that allows users to create and review dynamic audiovisual memory cues. Importantly, this DMA application is informed by research from the cognitive neuroscience literature, which describes how to optimally learn and remember information. Here, I will present research showing how using our DMA program improves episodic AM in older adults and changes how the brain represents these memories. This study demonstrates the potential for an inexpensive, efficient, and scientifically-tested means of improving the quality of life of individuals affected by memory loss.

2018

December 4, 2018 6 to 7:30 pm
Emily Blamire, PhD candidate

(Department of Linguistics)

Judging talkers: how speech affects our perceptions of each other Humans convey a great deal of information with their speech, far beyond the actual messages we say with our words.  Small changes in the sounds of our speech can have large and wide-ranging effects on how we are perceived as people.  Humans can not only recognize familiar individuals from just hearing their voices, but we can also make various judgements about a person’s emotional state, gender, and age, and even judge attributes such as attractiveness and personality.  Using data from perception experiments, this talk explores which aspects of the speech stream we are listening to when we make some these judgments, as well as how we go about recognizing the voices of people we have had limited exposure to.  

Julien Carrier, PhD candidate
(Department of Linguistics)

Cultural renewal and language changes in Inuktitut   Inhabiting the Arctic regions of Alaska, Canada and Greenland, the Inuit did not face the same socio-cultural and historical changes that most other Indigenous groups in North America had already experienced until the beginning of the 20thcentury when traders and missionaries began to take an interest in them. In fact, Inuit language varieties are believed to have remained quite similar until 1900 and to have diverged rapidly afterwards following these numerous transformations (cf. Dorais 1993, 2010). Indeed, many studies on the Inuit language report on dialectal distinctions and language changes (e.g., Johns 1999; Carrier 2012; Yuan 2018), but none of them present detailed statistics to support their claims or establish correlations with socio-historical factors. On the other hand, there are sociolinguistic studies that analyze the socio-cultural or historical changes that the Inuit have gone through, like the increasing bilingualism across the Inuit population (cf. Dorais &Sammons 2000; Patrick 2003), but no study has ever made a convincing correlation between them and dialectal distinctions or language changes. My dissertation fills this research gap. In this talk, I present and discuss results of my statistical analysis in North Baffin Inuktitut with natural data across speakers born between 1902 and 1998, and the interaction between some language changes observed in this Inuktitut dialect and different social and linguistic factors. 

November 6, 6 to 7:30 pm
Matthew Marinett (SJD Candidate, Faculty of Law)

“Competition among Social Media Companies as Internet Regulators”  

Increasing academic and mainstream attention is being paid to the reality that social media companies are acting as de facto regulators of Internet content. The vast user-bases of services such as Facebook, Twitter and Google, and the power of network effects to maintain their user bases, give them the ability to regulate users’ privacy, speech, and use of intellectual property. However, the policies and enforcement mechanisms between social media platforms differ considerably. For example, Facebook has increasingly attempted to crack down on hate speech, fake news, and obscenity, while Twitter has been far more reticent to do so. In the intellectual property space, YouTube’s Content ID system has created a unique enforcement mechanism that may be widely copied in the future. This presentation considers whether innovative or user-preferred regulatory policies and enforcement mechanisms are, or can be, significant competitive advantages in the social media space. It concludes that despite some evidence of user migration based on policy differences, recent events, as well as academic work on privacy policies end-user license agreements, suggest that policies and enforcement mechanisms are more likely to respond to governmental intervention than user preference. The presentation then offers some possible reasons why users are unlikely to make choices based on social media regulatory policy and enforcement.    

Patrick Garon-Sayegh
(SJD Candidate, Faculty of Law)

“Uncertainty, Expertise and the Law”  

We live in times of unprecedented techno-scientific evolution. And with this evolution comes a multitude of risks–both known and unknown. We expect the law to regulate some of these risks. But in order to regulate, law-makers need guidance with respect to the nature of the risks and the extent of the uncertainty surrounding them. This presentation discusses the role of techno-scientific experts in law-making. It will outline why experts are needed, and highlight the complexity of the task of crafting laws to manage techno-science, its risks and its uncertainties.  

October 2, 6 to 7:30 pm
Topic: Biomedical Engineering

Nathan Soucier
MASc student, Institute of Biomaterials & Biomedical Engeering

Meghan Wright
PhD candidate, Institute of Biomaterials & Biomedical Engeering

June 6, 5:30 to 7 pm
Samantha Chang, PhD candidate,
Graduate Department of Art

“Listening to Painting: Intersensoriality and Correspondences between Music and the Visual Art”

Representation of music in painting acknowledges the interactivity of the senses. Rather than relying on the sense of sight as the basis of the interaction with images, depictions of musical instruments and sheet music unifies the senses of hearing and touch. Drawing on Baxandall’s concept of the “period eye,” this paper will explore the intersensoriality and correspondences between music and the visual arts in the sixteenth century through a “period ear” and a “period skin.” The great attention to acoustic openness in the sixteenth century can be credited to the development in religious discourse and early modern science. The rise of Protestant theologies and the discovery of the Eustachian tube in the mid-sixteenth century contributed to the rising interest in the ear and the sense of hearing (McDermott 2013). Although it is often assumed that music is an art of the ear and painting an art of the eye (Howes 2017), a reexamination on the interrelationships between music and painting will offer insight on the purpose and the reception of music in the visual arts in the early modern period.  

Margeaux Feldman PhD candidate, Department of English,
Mark S. Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies

“#hospitalglam: Documenting Chronic Illness on Instagram”

Margeaux’s dissertation, “Hideous Girls, Sick Women: Refiguring Intimacy and Sexuality in America,” traces the long history of pathologizing female adolescent sexuality, beginning with Freud and Breuer’s work on hysteria at the turn of the 20th century. Margeaux then looks at stories of teenage pregnancy, depictions of female friendship, and the criticisms thrown at young women authors who write about sex in order to argue this pathologizing is still alive and well today. Her dissertation ends with an analysis of chronic illness memoirs and instagram, arguing that hideous girls and sick women are  using social media to reclaim the figure of the hysteric and foster new forms of intimacy. 

March 27, 5:30 to 7:30 pm
Topic: Healthcare Technology and Bioengineering
Stephanie Cheung, PhD candidate, Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering

“Perturbing children’s voices to learn how they speak”

Auditory feedback, the sound of our own voices, is an important source of information for the correct production of speech sounds. To understand how this feedback contributes to speech development, children’s auditory feedback can be experimentally perturbed in real time, and their compensatory speech productions recorded and analyzed. Novel analyses methods reveal that younger and older children may compensate differently, suggesting that auditory feedback plays different roles in the children’s speech as they mature.

Rachel Reding, MHSc candidate, Clinical Engineering

“Designing a wearable device to monitor the performance of prosthetic knees”

Approximately one in every 150 North Americans currently live with an amputation, 20% of which have an amputation above the knee. Above-knee amputees rely on prosthetic knees among other components (foot, socket, pylon, etc.) for ambulation. Studying how these knees perform and tuning the knee to provide amputees with a gait as optimal as possible can be a challenge given that gait analysis equipment is expensive, and a large portion of amputees live in the developing world with limited or no access to advanced measurement resources. Moreover, a system does not currently exist that can directly monitor the internal components of a prosthetic knee during daily gait activities. To solve this problem, this research provides a proof-of-concept device, usable in a wide variety of environments, which directly measures the function of the prosthetic knee. The goal for the final device is to be sent to countries around the world to gather data from a vast number of amputees, and to use this data for improving current and future prosthetic knee designs.

February 27, 5:30 to 7:30 pm
Topic: Social Innovation, Education and Literacy

Keita Demming, PhD OISE
“Building the future through social innovation”

Social innovation is a yet another site of struggle. Popular discourse frames social innovation as space of benevolence. Like a hammer, social innovation can be used to build beautiful things or can be used to destroy. Social innovation is about systems change and transformation. For social innovation to become a field or discipline, it must move beyond a discourse of benevolence. Social innovation is a framework for building the future. It is still to be determined if that future will be judged as positive, however we define the future.

Audrey Gardner, PhD candidate, OISE
“Embodied Knowing and Measured Deficits: Whose Knowledge Counts in Adult Literacy?”    

Hear Audrey present her thesis research on the (dis)connections between current policy about the meaning and measuring of literacy and learning and the self-knowledge of adult literacy learners. Drawing on concepts from New Literacy Studies and Disability Studies, and using Narrative Inquiry approaches, she will discuss how the prevailing norming practices in adult literacy policy discourse objectify and shame learners, treat them as bodies of deficiency, and obscure the embodied process of learning. She will also contrast such constructs of measured deficits with adult literacy learners embodied knowledge, particularly how they make meaning of their own literacy and learning.

January 30, 5:30 to 7:30 pm
Topic: Machine Learning & Artificial Intelligence 

Dr. Makarand Tapaswi (Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Computer Science)
“MovieGraphs: Understanding Human-Centric Situations from Videos”

Socially intelligent robots is an interesting avenue in artificial intelligence. This requires machines to have the ability to “read” people’s emotions, motivations, and other factors that affect behavior. Towards this goal, we introduce a novel dataset called MovieGraphs which provides detailed graph-based annotations of social situations depicted in movie clips. These graphs capture details about human interactions, relationships, and also emotions, and are grounded in the video using time stamps. We provide a thorough analysis of our dataset, showing interesting common-sense correlations that emerge between different social aspects of scenes, as well as across scenes over time. We propose a method for querying videos and text with graphs, and show that: 1) our graphs contain rich and sufficient information to summarize and localize each scene; and 2) subgraphs allow us to describe situations at an abstract level and retrieve multiple semantically relevant situations. We also propose methods for interaction understanding via ordering, and reasoning about the social scene.

Justin Boutilier (PhD candidate, Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering)
“Emergency Medical Response Optimization in Developing Urban Centres”

The lack of emergency medical transportation is viewed as the main barrier to the access and availability of emergency medical care in low and middle-income countries (LMICs). In this talk, we present a robust optimization approach to optimize both the location and routing of emergency response vehicles, accounting for uncertainty in travel times and spatial demand characteristic of LMICs. We traveled to Dhaka, Bangladesh, the sixth largest and third most densely populated city in the world, to conduct field research resulting in the collection of two unique datasets that inform our approach. This data is leveraged to develop machine learning methodologies to estimate demand for emergency medical services in a LMIC setting and to predict the travel time between any two locations in the road network for different times of day and days of the week. We combine our robust optimization and machine learning frameworks with real data to provide an in-depth investigation into three policy-related questions. Our results provide practical insights for emergency response optimization that can be leveraged by hospital-based and private ambulance providers in Dhaka and other developing urban centers.

2017

November 2017, 6 to 7:30 pm

Tuesday, October 17, 6 to 7:30 pm
Global Affairs and the Rule of Law

Haim Abraham, SJD Candidate (Faculty of Law)
“The Combatant Activities Exception and The Rule of Law”

If a person carelessly breaks your arm, she will have to compensate you for your medical expenses, lost wages, pain, and suffering. This notion is enshrined in tort law, the body of law that is applied by courts in civil cases to provide compensation for individuals wronged by others. Yet, if such injuries are inflicted by states on civilians during war, no compensation is awarded, leaving civilians with no mechanism of obtaining a remedy for their injuries. The reason for this lack of liability lies in the “combatant activities exception” that states have in their domestic legislation, which provides them with blanket immunity from any tort liability for injuries inflicted during war. However, this immunity from liability for losses caused by states during battle is an exception to the rule of law, as it provides states special privileges. Hence, the immunity increases the risk of infringements of rights on the battlefield. This presentation will offer a review of the combatant activities exception and its development. Furthermore, it will demonstrate the risks the exception poses to the rule of law by drawing on examples from Canada, Israel, and the United States.

Omar W. Bitar, MGA (Munk School of Global Affairs)
“Responsibilities Without Rights: Debating the Legality of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P)”

Exemplified in recent memory by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) illegal use of force in Kosovo in 1999, “just” military interventions conducted in the name of human protection pose a moral challenge to contemporary international law. The converse scenario, a technically legal albeit iniquitous breach of a state’s territorial integrity for humanitarian reasons, is no less problematic. Where moral and legal rationales for employing military means toward humane ends do not overlap, the so-called “humanitarian intervention dilemma” arises from the tension between law as it is and law as it ought to be. In response to the international community’s failure to avert multiple instances of mass atrocities in the 1990’s, the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) arose as a normative attempt to reconcile the moral imperatives of the international human rights regime with the prerogatives of state sovereignty laid out in Article 2(4) of the Charter of the United Nations (UN). By shifting the emphasis from a moral right to intervene to a legal responsibility to protect, R2P’s norm entrepreneurs sought to consolidate moral qualifications into an otherwise absolute legal concept of sovereignty, thereby rendering it conditional and dependent for its legitimacy on the fulfilment of the basic duty of human protection. 

While this new language of humanitarian intervention might incentivize states to “work” to achieve the legitimacy of their sovereignty rather than simply take it for granted, I argue that it has failed to address the very question by which it was initially motivated: Under what conditions does the validity of international law become compromised? How one approaches this question determines their legal interpretation of NATO’s military interventions in Kosovo and Libya; President Donald Trump’s recent military strikes on a government-controlled airbase in Syria; and retroactive justifications of the Iraq War. Largely absent from academic and policy analyses of such contentious cases involving the use of force against a sovereign state, the landmark debate between H.L.A. Hart and Lon Fuller in 1958 indirectly attempted to address this question by offering competing perspectives on the nature of the relationship between law and morality. In support of my argument, I revive the exchange between the two legal theorists, employing each of Hart’s legal positivism and Fuller’s natural law theory to reveal the legal shortcomings of R2P as an institutionalized norm of human protection in the international community.

Tuesday, September 19, 6 to 7:30 pm
Astronomy & Astrophysics

Jielai Zhang, PhD candidate (Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics)
“Discovering the unknown unknowns: Milky Way’s Dark Twin”

What happens when you can suddenly see parts of the Universe you could never see before? You are bound to learn new things. The Dragonfly Telephoto Array is a novel telescope hidden in high altitude regions of New Mexico, USA. It has been observing the faintest, never seen before parts of the Universe for the last 5 years. In this talk, you will learn about the new discoveries made by this telescope, including Milky Way’s dark twin.

Ryan Cloutier, PhD candidate (Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics)
“The Long Path Towards Finding Habitable Exo-Worlds”

Although we are still decades away from discovering life on worlds outside of our own solar system, much progress is being made today to identify the best potential candidates for hosting such life. In this talk I will discuss what we currently know about so-called exoplanets and how we know it. I will then highlight the steps that will be taken in the not-so-distant future to further our understanding of exoplanetary atmospheres and potentially even their surface conditions using extreme telescopes in hope that one day these efforts will culminate with the probable detection of Earth-like life elsewhere in the galaxy.

Wednesday, July 26, 5:30 to 7 pm
Human Geography
Speakers:

Michael Chrobok, PhD candidate (Human Geography)
“Disrupting the Food Desert/Oasis Binary: Ethnic Grocery Retailers and Food Access in Humbermede, Toronto”

The term “food desert” has been used to identify residential areas where people may have a limited ability to access healthy, high quality, and affordable food due to an absence of grocery stores. Such food deserts have been seen by some to exist in opposition to “food oases,” areas where grocery purchasing venues are abundant. The recent literature on food deserts, oases, and access more broadly, however, often disregards ‘”ethnic” grocery retailers as sources of food, or assumes them to be attractive shopping sites for all individuals. Moreover, this body of research frequently frames access as an issue of spatial proximity to grocery stores. Drawing on interviews I conducted with residents of Humbermede, Toronto, I explore how food accessibility is perceived and experienced in a culturally-diverse neighbourhood where the only grocery retailers present are ethnic in nature. I argue that cultural identity-related factors and class-based aspects of one’s life circumstances — not merely distance — coalesce to influence understandings of one’s food retail environment and one’s store choices. Because these characteristics can differ on individual bases, multiple interpretations of the level of food retail provision in a neighbourhood are possible. These findings highlight the limitations of using simple labels (“deserts” or “oases”) to describe grocery shopping landscapes; as this research shows, food shoppers are not homogenous, all retailers are not equally attractive to all consumers, and food access has important socio-cultural, economic, and spatiotemporal dimensions.

Isa Urrutia, PhD candidate (Human Geography)
“Eating disorders in the margins. On troubled eating experiences in the Latinx community”

This presentation provides a brief overview of my doctoral research, which lies at the intersection of inquiries on bodies, mental health, activism, experiences of living “in between” cultural experiences and across borders, and experiences of being racialized or otherwise marginalized through the presumption of being “out of place.” My research asks: how might one create grassroots organizing spaces of healing and recovery that empower latinx folks to heal and reclaim our bodies, and how might they best be configured to help us understand experiences of eating disorders and troubled eating practices? 

Roxana Escobar, PhD student (Human Geography)
“Afro-Peruvians and Citizenship in Peru”

This presentation will address issues arising from my doctoral project, which focuses on how territorial identity and notions of blackness are constructed in Lima, a self-identified mestizo city. Using frameworks of feminist political ecologyand black geographies, I aim to initiate a theoretical and empirical conversation on how blackness has been negotiated in a territory where only whites and mestizos are given the possibility of establishing a relationship with the land. Moreover, I attempt to unveil the power relations between the Peruvian governments and the Afro-descendant population that have determined the latter’s exclusion from the city’s identity and the full benefits of citizenship. Key questions include the following: How are land and territory conceptualized by the Peruvian state? More precisely, how is the indigeneity to the land defined in Peru? Can Afro-Peruvians be considered among the indigenous peoples from Peru? My research will blend qualitative and quantitative methods to map how Afro-Peruvians shape space through land and housing in Lima.

Wednesday, June 28, 5:30 to 7 pm
Canadian History: Celebrating Canada 150
Speakers:

Julia Rady-Shaw, PhD candidate (History)
“Between Earth and High Heaven”: Canadians and Christianity in the Early Cold War  

Julia’s dissertation unsettles historical assumptions made about secularization in Canada and incorporates ideas of “diffusive Christianity” (a concept used by historians of modern England) in order to examine the influence and impact of religion in Canadian society after 1945.

Dale Barbour, PhD candidate (History)
“Undressed Toronto: Tracking the history of vernacular bathing and the commercial beach in a turn-of-the-century Canadian city, 1850-1930”  

Dale’s research demonstrates how bathing in the nineteenth century was a predominantly male nude practice, often done in Toronto’s semi-industrialized areas, and that bathers, more often than not, were coddled rather than policed by a middle-class elite who harboured their own fond memories of similar experiences. In this narrative the beach, as both a physical and social space, emerges as a conscious product intended to initiate a new heterosocial system of bathing.

Tuesday, May 30, 5:30 to 7 pm
Women’s and Children’s Health

Speakers:

Bona Kim, PhD candidate (Department of Physiology, Faculty of Medicine)
“Preterm Birth – Socioeconomic Factors, Biological Causes and Current State of Research”

Rohan D’Souza, Maternal and Fetal Medicine Physician; Assistant Professor, OBGYN; PhD candidate (Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation)

“Choosing the optimal blood thinner for pregnant women with mechanical heart valves – a novel three-step approach”

Wednesday, April 26, 5:30 to 7 pm
Education in the 21st Century: Issues, Challenges, Social Justice & Policymaking

Speakers:

Dr. Abdurrahman Wahab, PhD (Department of Social Justice Education, OISE)
“Education in Kurdistan Region of Iraq at the Intersection of nationalism and Democracy: Educational policymaking as endeavors of state building”

Mimi Masson, PhD candidate (Department of Curriculum, Teaching & Learning, OISE)
“French as a Second Language (FSL) teacher flight in Ontario: where is everybody going!?”

Wednesday, March 22, 5:30 to 7 pm
Medicine & Public Health: A Sociologic and Anthropologic Perspective

Speakers:

Debra Kriger, PhD candidate
(Department of Exercise Sciences, Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education)

“Body size stigma and risk in public health – How do we make sense of the body, as a social entity, moving through time?”

Kaitlyn Vleming, MA candidate
(Department of Anthropology, Faculty of Arts & Science)

“Lived experience of people with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) – diagnosis in social context from a medical anthropological perspective”

Wednesday, February 22, 5:30 to 7 pm
Embodiment, Mind and Body in Social Justice Discourses

Speakers:

Olivia Aiello, PhD candidate (Department of Social Justice Education, OISE)
“Healing through the body: Using yoga as embodied healing practice in community social work”

Kimberly Todd, PhD candidate (Department of Social Justice Education, OISE)
“Dreaming our way to new colonial futurities – Charting Pathways of Hope”

Wednesday, January 25, 5:30 to 7 pm Nutrition and Public Health Policy

Speakers:

Marie-Elssa Morency, MSc candidate (Department of Nutritional Sciences, Faculty of Medicine)
“The perceived benefits of foods – influences, credibility and population health outcomes”

Jodi Bernstein, MPH, RD, PhD candidate (Department of Nutritional Sciences, Faculty of Medicine)
“Building an evidence base to inform sugar related policies”

2016

Wednesday, November 23, 5:30 to 7 pm
Biomedical Sciences  A Historical and Modern Perspective

Speakers:

Shawn Xiong, PhD candidate (Department of Biochemistry, Faculty of Medicine)
“Great scientific achievements, narcissism in the sciences and modern science commercialization”

Samantha Yammine, PhD candidate (Department of Molecular Genetics, Faculty of Medicine)
“Stem Cells & Regenerative Medicine  The current state of the research, challenges and ethics”

Wednesday, October 26, 5:30 to 7 pm
Sociology & Politics  The Syrian refugee Crisis and the Venezuelan Political Crisis

Speakers:

Angela Xu, PhD candidate (Department of Sociology, University of Toronto)
“The Syrian Refugee Crisis  Media Coverage, National Identity and Political Ideology”

G​iancarlo Fiorella, PhD candidate (Centre for Criminology & Sociolegal Studies)
“The recent political fallout in Venezuela with a focus on the trial of Leopoldo Lopez and the future of Venezuela”

Wednesday, September 28, 5:30 to 7 pm Concussions  Biology and Policymaking

Concussions are a major public health issue affecting a large range of ages.The first half of the talk will take you on a journey of the science behind concussions, and will highlight some of the major directions in the field today. The second half outlines what’s being done to address the problem at the policy level in government, schools, and sports organizations.

Speakers:

Swapna Mylabathula, PhD candidate
(Institute of Medical Science, Faculty of Medicine)

Sandhya Mylabathula, PhD candidate
(Department of Exercise Sciences, Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education)