Editorial—Getting in the Research Game

You may have heard that the bachelor’s degree is the high school diploma of the modern world.  And given that Canada is the nation with the highest rate of people with some post-secondary credential around the world, there may be some truth to that.

So how do you distinguish yourself among all the others, if that’s what you’re going for?  Graduate studies is a solid choice, but doing that will generally require you come up with some original research into a topic.  That can be pretty daunting to many students who have settled in to the routine of read, synthesize, and report (and that’s giving the benefit of the doubt, as far too many courses still only require simple regurgitation of the readings to pass.)

Fortunately, we are entering AUSU’s research week and there’s a few events coming up, with one of the key ones being a zoom meeting with Athabasca University’s Associate Vice-President of Research, Dr. Andrew Perrin.  While most research related events at universities are directed at graduate students, that doesn’t tend to help those of us trying to become graduate students.  This one, hosted by AUSU, promises to have some focus on undergraduate opportunities.

My first few years taking studies at AU, I managed to get myself into a “research assistant” position at the university for the computer science department.  And what did that entail?  Sitting in an online chatroom (actually a MOO, a programmable chatroom/gaming environment) and answering questions of students who came in looking for technical help in getting their course materials working.  It wasn’t hard, and this has been a helpful credit on my CV ever since.  What’s more, I was paid for my few hours each week, that, more often than not, meant keeping one eye on a chat window while playing solitaire in another.

This meeting should be a great opportunity to get an idea of what kind of positions are available like that for AU undegraduates.  Now, I’m not saying you’ll get a position exactly like that, especially considering how expert systems and artificial intelligence are able to do essentially the same thing these days, but there’s problems with those systems too.

And that’s the perfect segue into one of our feature articles this week, were Alek Golijanin takes a look at what “machine bias” means when people talk about artificial intelligence. Is the bias really that of the machine, or is there something deeper that needs to be dealt with.

Also this week, our main feature is our interview with Sabina, a student who went for a certificate right after high-school, and since has decided she’s looking to further her degree and career, and how AU has managed to fit into those plans.  Her words of wisdom are certainly worth reading the article for, as they’re something a lot of students have trouble with.

We’re also featuring a story by Xine Wang (Formerly Xu, congrats!) on just what it’s like to travel during this phase of the COVID pandemic, and some of the notable differences she’s seen on either side of the border.

Plus we’ve still got events, scholarships, a blast from the past for Squirrel Day in the Vintage Voice, as well as our usual selection of advice, recipes, thoughtful reflections and more!  Enjoy the read!