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

Table of Contents

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

Available Projects

Crisis Software Engineering / Pandemic Programming (Postdoc, PhD, MSc, honours). Little is known about how crises, disasters, emergencies and pandemics affect software projects. 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.

Sustainable Software Engineering (Postdoc, PhD, MSc, honours). 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, honours) 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. 

Why Dalhousie’s Software Engineering Lab?

Dalhousie is one of Canada’s U-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 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. Domestic applicants and applicants from underrepresented groups will be given priority.

Halifax, meanwhile, is a picturesque port city with high quality of life and reasonable cost of living. We enjoy a wide variety of restaurants, amazing parks hiking trails, campgrounds, 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.

Masters or PhD?

You do not need a Master’s degree to begin a PhD at Dalhousie, however, only outstanding students should attempt a PhD without completing a Master’s first. I recommend apply for the PhD program if you meet any of the following conditions:

  • You have a Master’s degree from a good university with a GPA of at least 3.5 out of 4.
  • You have a bachelor’s with honours from a good university and a GPA of at least 3.7 out of 4.
  • You have a Master’s or bachelor’s with honours and are first author on one or more publications in good, peer-reviewed conferences or journals.

AND you are a native English speaker or have IELTS all categories 7 or higher, TOEFL 100, or a similar score in MELAB, CanTest, CAEL, or PTE academic. You do not need to take the GRE.

To be eligible for the Master’s program, you need:

  • A bachelor’s degree in computer science, software engineering, computer systems engineering, information systems or similar.
  • A GPA of at least 3.0 out of 4, or equivalent
  • To be a native English speaker, or have IELTS 7, TOEFL 92 or similar score in MELAB, CanTest, CAEL, or PTE academic

If you perform very well in the first year of the Masters program, you may be able to switch into the PhD program.

Apply for a PhD

If you want to complete a PhD on one of the topics listed above, apply here as soon as possible. Do not wait for a deadline. Funding is limited and goes to the first qualified applicant. There is no need to check with me first. Your application should speak for itself. Apply now.

If you want to begin in September 2021, you should aim to apply by mid-December 2020.

Remember to select me as your preferred supervisor, and explain in your cover letter which project 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.

All PhD students receive a competitive stipend and tuition waver. An unfunded PhD student will only be considered in exceptional circumstances (e.g. applicant has external scholarship funding). If you already have an external PhD fellowship please email me directly.

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. The official deadlines are June 1 (Canadians) or April 1 (international students), but applications are considered as they arrive so the sooner you apply, the better your chances. There is no need to check with me first. Your application should speak for itself. Don’t wait for the deadline. Apply now.

Most Master’s students are self-funded, but exceptional applicants are offered scholarships. Consideration for these scholarships is automatic when you apply.  There is always space in my lab for enthusiastic and diligent masters students, whether or not they have funding. Self-funded students who perform very well in the first year can sometimes get funding in their second year.

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. Both domestic and international students are eligible. Keep an eye out for announcements in December and information sessions in early January. 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 well in advance.

Apply for a Post-Doc

There are two kinds of post-docs: fellows and scholars.

A post-doctoral fellow is paid from their supervisor’s grants. I am not currently looking for a post-doctoral fellow.

A post-doctoral scholar has external funding such as an NSERC Postdoctoral Fellowship or Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship. If you have or would like to pursue an external postdoctoral fellowship, and are interested in working with me, please email me directly.

The point of a postdoc is to help recent PhD graduates get a tenure-track position. Postdocs will receive extensive mentoring and support commensurate with this goal. If you secure a tenure-track position, you don’t have to finish your postdoc early.

Contact Professor Ralph

I receive several queries from perspective graduate students per day and do not have time to 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, it is not necessary to email me first. Your complete application is your opportunity to make a good first impression. We will schedule an interview once I’ve reviewed your complete application.

You should email me if:

  • You already have funding for your program (e.g. a Banting Fellowship, an NSERC PGS-D or CGS-M, a commonwealth scholarship) and are just looking for a supervisor
  • You are applying for a PhD and want more details about one of the opportunities listed above
  • You want to apply for the USRA program (current undergraduate students at Dalhousie only)
  • It’s been at least two weeks since you submitted your application and you haven’t heard back.