A partnership between researchers at Ryerson University and the SGH Warsaw School of Economics (WSE) in Poland has become a shining example of how international collaborations can foster cutting-edge research, high-quality training and innovative projects with industry and government partners.
At the centre of the Ryerson-WSE collaboration is Dr. Pawel Pralat, an Associate Professor at the Department of Mathematics in Ryerson's Faculty of Science who is also Director of the Computational Methods in Industrial Mathematics Lab at the new Fields Centre for Quantitative Analysis and Modelling (Fields-CQAM).
Pralat is one of the top young researchers in the world in graph theory and its application to real-world self-organizing networks, such as those that connect social media users and autonomous vehicles. Working at the intersection of mathematics and computer science, Pralat bridges the gap between pure math and real-world applications. "Collaborative engagement is at the foundation of my approach to research," he says. "I strive to find applications for theoretical math, bringing academia closer to industry partners."
Pralat's record of success is staggering. Since joining Ryerson in 2011, he has secured over $2M in external peer-reviewed research funding, nationally and internationally, from government and industry sources. Currently, he holds 10 NSERC Engage Grants, the highest number of any researcher in mathematics. He has also published over 150 papers, a rare feat for someone at his career stage and an exceptionally high number within the mathematics discipline. (There are more than 400,000 mathematicians worldwide listed in the Mathematical Reviews database, and only 0.16% of them have at least 150 papers.)
The lead Polish researchers from WSE are Drs. Bogumil Kaminski and Przemyslaw Szufel. Kaminski is an Associate Professor and Head of the Decision Analysis and Support unit and also an adjunct professor appointed to Ryerson's Data Science Laboratory. Szufel is an Assistant Professor and a member of the Decision Analysis and Support unit. Both researchers are also core team members of the Fields-CQAM lab that Pralat directs.
Kaminski and Szufel visit Ryerson three or four times a year and have worked with Pralat to build an extended team of undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and affiliated researchers from both institutions. Along with creating ongoing opportunities for WSE students to conduct research and study at Ryerson, the team also organizes workshops and sessions. Additionally, they are currently establishing a cotutelle, a PhD program in which a student is simultaneously enrolled at two universities in different countries.
"The researchers and students from WSE add enormous value to our shared projects," says Pralat. "They are very skilled and insightful. They are also highly supportive team members, which enhances the effectiveness of our collaborations."
The Ryerson-WSE extended team is continually involved in a diverse research projects, many of which have engaged new collaborators from around the world.
One research focus is hypergraphs, a new frontier in data analysis that uses advanced mathematics to power intuitive methods for extracting insights from huge collections of data. Ryerson-WSE work in this area has attracted significant interest from multinational companies such as Google and Facebook and government agencies such as the National Sercurity Agency (NSA) in the United States and Canada's Tutte Institute for Mathematics and Computing in Ottawa. Recently, the Ryerson-WSE team began a two-year hypergraphs project co-sponsored by the Polish National Agency for Academic Exchange and in collaboration with researchers from the University of Salerno in Fisciano, Italy.
Currently, the team has developed a range of cutting-edge industry applications, such as a tool that assesses personality by analyzing speech and techniques for online detection of users' anomalous activities on confidential file sharing platforms. In the latest project, they have teamed up with Dr. Atefeh Mashatan of Ryerson's Ted Rogers School of Management's Cybersecurity Research Lab to work on enhancing the security and efficiency of smart connected cars.
With a diverse array of research initiatives, rich learning opportunities for students and a growing network of international collaborators from industry, government and research institutions, the impressive impact of the Ryerson-WSE partnership is only beginning.