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. Applicants from underrepresented groups will be given priority.

Halifax, meanwhile, is a picturesque port city with high quality of life and moderate living costs. 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.

Masters or PhD?

You do not need a Master’s degree to begin a PhD at Dalhousie. You need:

  • A first class Master’s or bachelor’s degree (with honours)—whatever “first class” means at your university—in computer science, software engineering, computer systems engineering, information systems or a similar discipline.
  • A GPA of at least 3.7 out of 4.3
  • You have one or more publications in good, peer-reviewed conferences or journals.
  • You are a native English speaker or have one or more of the following:
    • 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.

If you have the GPA and the English skills but no publications, apply for Master’s. Even if you have a Master’s degree already, you may have to do a second Masters to get enough research experience to enter the PhD program. If you do very well in the first year of your Master’s, you may be able to transfer directly into a fully-funded PhD position.

Apply for a PhD

If you already have a scholarship and fellowship and are just looking for a supervisor, email me.

If you need funding read our guide for PhD applicants. Applications for the harmonized scholarship process (for domestic and international students) are due December 23, 2020. Applications for the Canadian Graduate Scholarship (Canadian citizens and permanent residents only) are typically due at the beginning of October.

When you apply for the program, 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.

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. Domestic students should consider applying for a CGS-M (due ~Dec 1) and all students should consider applying for the Harmonized Scholarship Process (due December 23, 2020) . The official deadlines (June 1 for Canadians; April 1 for international students) are fine for self-funded students, but if you want a scholarship, you need to apply earlier.

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, but it’s rare.

There is no need to check with me first. Your application should speak for itself.

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 an information session some time in 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.

Apply for a Post-Doc

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

A post-doctoral fellow is paid from a grant. 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 can 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, write a research proposal. I can’t comment on your application without seeing a specific proposal.

You should email me if:

  • You already have funding for your program 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 two weeks since you submitted your application and you haven’t heard anything.