The Dalhousie Software Engineering Lab (DalSEL) is currently accepting applications for post-docs, PhD students, MSc students and undergraduate student research assistants (USRA). Read on to discover available projects and how to apply. 

Table of Contents

Available Projects
Why Dalhousie’s Software Engineering Lab?
Apply for a post-doc
Should I do an MSc or PhD?
Apply for a PhD
Apply for Masters
Become an undergraduate research assistant

Available Projects

Crisis Software Engineering / Pandemic Programming (Postdoc, PhD, MSc, USRA). The COVID-19 pandemic revealed how little is known about how crises, disasters, emergencies and pandemics affect software projects and teams. Yet, many software projects are critical to overcoming crises. The successful applicants will investigate both how crises affect software development and how software professionals can mitigate these effects, with a view toward future crises and climate change.

Sustainable Software Engineering (Postdoc, PhD, MSc, USRA). The role of software development in sustainability is vastly understudied. Software profoundly affects all three pillars of sustainability: Environmental, Social and Economic. Inversely, the three sustainability pillars apply to every software project. The successful applicants will not only investigate the relationship between software engineering and sustainability but also develop and empirically evaluate tools or practices for improving software project sustainability.

Agile Methods + Human-Centred Design = Dual Track Development (Postdoc, PhD, MSc, USRA) Most software is not very well-designed. Buggy. Unfriendly enterprise systems, insecure websites, predatory mobile games, hate-amplifying social networks, racist AI, and carbon-spewing cryptocurrencies cost us billions, make us miserable and exacerbate the climate crisis. The successful applicants will work with our industry partners to envision and validate better techniques for software design. 

Video games + Weights + Cardio + Yoga = Exergaming. (PhD). What if you had to train in real life to level up in your favourite game? That’s the premise of the next generation of exergaming systems. The successful applicant will modify a AAA game to incorporate real life exercise, and develop techniques for recording exercise and measuring player reactions to games. This is a flexible project with a lot of room to focus on your interests, e.g., game design, player studies, biometrics, instrumentation or augmented reality. 

Revolutionizing Refactoring with Better Software Metrics (PhD, MSc). Developers continuously reorganize software code to improve its structure (“refactoring”). However, there is no empirically-validated method of measuring structure quality. Instead, refactoring is a completely manual process based on experience, intuition, subjective criteria, and unvalidated professional guidelines. The successful applicants will develop a tool that measures the overall impact of a code change on system organization, and field test the tool with our industry partners. The ideal candidate has a strong knowledge of Java and an interest in software metrics. 

Empirical Standards for Software Engineering Research (PhD, MSc, USRA). Peer review—the foundation of science—is ineffective, unreliable, prejudiced and opaque. It can only be fixed by transitioning to more structured review processes in which reviewers evaluate papers against specific acceptance criteria tailored to a paper’s individual research methodology (e.g. case study, controlled experiment). The successful applicants will create and evaluate tools to facilitate more structured review. The ideal candidate has good knowledge of web programming (e.g. HTML, CSS, Javascript) and an interest in research methods.

Why Dalhousie’s Software Engineering Lab?

Dalhousie is one of Canada’s 15 research-intensive universities. Here, you will find a supportive, inclusive, multicultural environment for realizing your full potential. Our programs will provide you with a world-class education.

At DalSEL, Postdocs, PhD students, MSc students and undergraduate research assistants benefit from extensive mentoring, a collaborative lab culture, strong industry links and competitive stipends. Those intent on an academic career will receive coaching and help with professional networking. Those intent on an industry career path may have opportunities for internships or close collaboration with industry partners.

Funding is available to both domestic and international students. Applicants from underrepresented groups will be given priority.

Halifax, meanwhile, is a picturesque port city with high quality of life. We enjoy a wide variety of restaurants, parks, water sports in summer, snow sports in winter, and a passable public transit system. Halifax is very family-friendly with a great library system, lots of kids programs, and a plethora of playgrounds and parks. Nova Scotia is home to many beautiful communities, campgrounds, trails, lakes, rivers, lighthouses and opportunities for running, hiking, cycling, ATVing, boating and generally exploring the great outdoors.

Apply for a Post-Doc

Joining us as a postdoc has many benefits. Postdocs will receive extensive mentoring and support towards securing a tenure-track position. Postdocs typically have opportunities to mentor graduate students, teach courses (for additional pay), and network with local, national and international businesses. A postdoc position at DalSel will help you solidify your reputation as an outstanding emerging scholar. You’ll have opportunities to improve your research, teaching and grant-writing skills. If you secure a tenure-track position, you can finish your postdoc early. Getting you to a permanent position is the whole point!

To be eligible for a postdoc, you must EITHER have received your PhD within the past 5 years OR be a PhD candidate who is close to defending. Domestic and International applicants are eligible. Applicants must have a strong research record with at least one publication in a top journal or conference such as ICSE, FSE, ASE, ESEM, TSE, TOSEM or EMSE.

To get for a postdoc position, you have to apply for one of the following:

  • Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship: best salary; extremely competitive; open to Canadian and International Applicants. Contact Prof. Ralph by July 1.
  • NSERC Postdoctoral Fellowship: good salary; moderately competitive; Canadian citizens and permanent residents only. Contact Prof. Ralph by September 15.
  • Marie Curie Global Postdoctoral Fellowship: open to nationals or long-term residents of the EU Member States or Horizon Europe Associated Countries. Contact Prof. Ralph by September 15.
  • Mitacs Industrial Postdoc: better salary; easy to get if you have support from an industrial partner. Partners must have offices in Canada, but not necessarily Nova Scotia. Contact Prof. Ralph by October 25.
  • Killam Postdoctoral Fellowship: better salary; very competitive; open to Canadian and International Applicants. Contact Prof. Ralph by November 15.

If you want to apply for one of the above awards, submit an expression of interest by email to Prof. Ralph. Include your CV and a brief description of the research program you’d like to pursue, if successful. Applicants whose research program intersects with the opportunities listed above will be preferred.

If you apply for one or more of these awards but are not successful, there may be other opportunities, but you must apply for one of these awards first.

Masters or PhD?

You do not need a Master’s degree to begin a PhD at Dalhousie. Rather, you should apply for a PhD if you want a career in research or academia, and apply for an MSc if you want to return to industry afterwards. For a PhD, you need:

  • A first class degree (Master’s or bachelor’s with honours)—whatever “first class” means at your university—in computer science, software engineering, computer systems engineering, information systems or a similar discipline.
  • A cumulative GPA equivalent of at least 3.7 out of 4.3 (about 3.5/4, 8.5/10 or 17/20) in your most recent degree.
  • Evidence of research aptitude, such as one or more peer-reviewed publications (or posters or presentations) in good conferences, journals or workshops.
  • One or more indicators of English proficiency:
    • a degree taught completely in English,
    • IELTS all categories 7 or higher,
    • TOEFL 95 or higher,
    • a similar score in MELAB, CanTest, CAEL, or PTE academic
    • evidence that English is your first language

Apply for a PhD

You have to write two applications: one for funding and one for admission. Virtually everyone who gets fundings will be admitted so forget about admission and focus on getting funding.

If you already have funding and are just looking for a supervisor, email me. Otherwise do not email me yet. Keep reading.

Canadian citizens and permanent residents should apply for the Canadian Graduate Scholarship (typically due at the beginning of October). All applicants should apply for a Nova Scotia Graduate scholarship, through the harmonized scholarship process (typically due mid-January). Our guide for PhD applicants explains how to apply for these awards.

Once you have applied through the harmonized scholarship process, go ahead and apply for the program. Remember to select me as your preferred supervisor and explain which project(s) you’re interested in. If you need help with the application, email graduate@cs.dal.ca. Once your complete application has been received, I will be in touch.

Apply for Masters

If you would like to complete a Masters in Computer Science on one of the topics listed above, apply here as soon as possible.

If you have a GPA of at least 3.5/4.0, you should apply for scholarships. Canadian citizens and permanent residents should apply for the Canadian Graduate Scholarship (typically due at the beginning of December). All applicants with a GPA of at least 3.5/4.0 should apply for a Nova Scotia Graduate scholarship, through the harmonized scholarship process (typically due mid-January).

It is difficult to get a full scholarship for an MSc in Computer Science at Dalhousie. If your GPA is less than 3.5/4.0 you will likely have to self-fund. You must apply to the program by June 1 for Canadians or April 1 for international students. However, you should apply as early as possible to give yourself enough time to make travel arrangements. There is always space in my lab for enthusiastic and diligent self-funded MSc students.

There is no need to check with me before applying. Your application should speak for itself. However, if you are applying for a scholarship, you are welcome to send your draft application for me to review.

Becoming an undergrad research assistant

Exceptional undergrads interested in research should apply for an Undergraduate Student Research Award. The deadline is usually around the end of January. Keep an eye out for announcements in December and information sessions in December or January. Both domestic and international students are eligible (domestic USRAs are funded by NSERC; undergraduate USRAs are funded by the faculty).

The USRA includes a 12-week full-time paid internship in the supervisor’s lab. Preference is given to second- and third-year students. A USRA is a great lead-in to an honours project. There is always room in my lab for USRA recipients. If you are thinking of applying for a USRA, let me know by mid-January and we’ll discuss topics.

Contact Professor Ralph

I receive several queries from perspective graduate students per day and cannot respond to them all.

If you want to apply to the Master’s program and work in my lab, simply apply to the program and list me as a prospective supervisor. We will schedule an interview once I’ve reviewed your complete application.

If you want to apply to the PhD program, write a research proposal, as explained in our guide for PhD applicants. I can’t comment on your application without seeing a specific proposal.

You should email me if:

  • You want to apply for a postdoc position.
  • You already have funding for your program or postdoc and are just looking for a supervisor
  • You are applying for a PhD and want feedback on your two-page proposal
  • You want to apply for the USRA program (current undergraduate students at Dalhousie only)
  • It’s been at least three weeks since you submitted your application and you haven’t heard anything.