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Message from the Vice-President, Research & Innovation

As I look back on 2017, it has been a year since the announcement of my appointment, and it has been an exciting and a frighteningly fast eight months since my arrival at Ryerson in April.

I am still discovering, connecting, and reconnecting, and listening to the community as I make my way around campus. Collision, collaboration, scale, urban and global are all terms that resonate within me when I look out my office window at the centre of one of the most – if not the most – dynamic, diverse, and innovative global cities in the world. It is an exciting time to support Ryerson as it continues on its trajectory aiming to impact the lives of its students and the city, and to address some of the most pressing questions and challenges of our time.  

I have particularly enjoyed meeting students, faculty and staff as well as those who have recently joined the university who have impressed me with their enthusiasm, accomplishments, expertise, and desire to make an impact and contribute to city building, inclusion and diversity, collaboration and partnership, and innovation.

Impact requires us to think bigger, deeper, and to be aspirational in all facets of our mission. A global city requires global leaders. We need to redefine the limits of our thinking and relationships with one another. We need to embrace interdisciplinary approaches to break down silos and encourage greater “brain circulation” within the university and in our partnerships and collaborations regionally, nationally and internationally. We will find unchartered waters to navigate, we will be trailblazers, and we will be fearless competitors in our pursuit of excellence.

I am pleased and excited that the university has secured the ticket to recruit a Canada Excellence Research Chair in Migration and Integration. This is a significant area of emphasis at Ryerson with an already global reputation for excellence. We celebrated the accomplishments of our leading scholars, scientists and artists recognized by the Royal Society of Canada, including the election of professor Bin Wu as a Fellow. Ryerson announced two new Canada Research Chairs—in High Performance Computing and Sustainable Energy, and in Microarchitecture for Advanced Polymeric Materials. We received funding for the new Centre for Food Innovation and Nutrition. Additionally, we celebrated discovery, championed innovation through industry-supported development programs, and saw our graduate students make breakthroughs and challenge conventional thinking in their thesis work as well as by bringing their ideas to fruition through innovation and entrepreneurship.

In this issue of our newsletter, we focus on research in the field of big (and complex) data. Notwithstanding being an important driver towards achievements in the application of artificial intelligence, the research profiled brings focus back to critical questions of our society that revolve around people and lives that will be affected by data and technology.

Through everyday interactions via social media and other technology, an unprecedented amount of data is being gathered, collected, analyzed and applied in ways that we never thought possible. Big data, or as Ryerson researcher Abdolreza Abhari calls it, “massive data”, is shaping how we are engaging in projects that capitalize on emerging data-focused technologies for the betterment of society and for the sharing of collective knowledge.

Being responsible stewards of data requires diligence and care. There are pressing questions that need to be answered. How will big data impact how we bank and do business? How will it change the ways we receive or administer health care?  How will it shape the industrial and manufacturing sectors? How will it affect how we plan and design cities? And just as important: who are the benefactors, who is most at risk, and who will be left behind? Our researchers are examining these questions closely in order to help inform public policy and spark discussions that will shape our cities, our communities and how we engage with the world.

As big data starts to shape our current economy, people are a crucial part of the equation. People are the providers of data, the ones who can give important insights, and the ones who can determine how best to apply what we know and innovate further. The research that drives innovation and the individuals who pursue entrepreneurship are fueling the fire of this revolution. Their ability to innovate, pivot and innovate more is what makes people our most valuable asset. Across disciplines, our researchers are applying data and technology for the betterment of society.

We hope you enjoy this issue. I look forward to 2018 and sharing more stories and news on recent developments and the impact of Ryerson’s research.

Happy New Year and best wishes for the holiday season.

Steven N. Liss
Vice-President, Research and Innovation