Elizabeth Reid is graduating with a Bachelor of Science double honours degree in computer science and mathematics, and a Bachelor of Music individualized degree in voice. (Photo: Submitted)

USask graduate values interdisciplinary research

Elizabeth Reid has “always been interested in a lot of things,” including both the arts and science.

That made choosing a single major at the University of Saskatchewan (USask) a difficult task—so she didn’t. Instead, Reid—who opted to pursue two degrees in USask’s College of Arts and Science—is set to graduate during Spring Convocation with a Bachelor of Science double honours degree in computer science and mathematics and a Bachelor of Music individualized degree in voice.          

“When I was in Grade 12 and trying to decide what I wanted to study in university, I had quite a hard time narrowing my interests down to choose just one or two subjects. I knew that I definitely wanted to pursue music and mathematics, but I had also recently taken a computer science class and really loved it, and I couldn’t envision myself giving it up,” said Reid, who was born in Saskatoon and raised in Yorkton. “As luck would have it, I found some information on the USask website about their second-degree program, which meant that I could do both a BMus and a BSc double honours degree at the same time, which was perfect for me.”

“I’ve always felt like there are a lot of connections between these three areas, though sometimes people find that surprising,” she added. “But really, there is structure to music that can be expressed through mathematics, especially when it comes to music theory and the nature of sound itself. And there are many ways to be creative in both math and computer science, even just by figuring out how to solve interesting problems. So I think it has been very rewarding to study all three areas, and further explore some of the connections between them.”

Reid, who first became a USask student in 2015, has excelled throughout her studies. She has made the Dean’s Honour List and received numerous scholarships and awards—the David L. Kaplan Music Scholarship, the James G. and Edith Duthie Memorial Scholarship, the Judy Peachey Memorial Scholarship, and the Linda Carmichael Recognition Award for Women in Computational Sciences—as well as Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada undergraduate student research awards in 2018, 2019 and 2020.

In April 2021, Reid was also honoured with the Best Thesis Prize in Mathematics (Interdisciplinary) from the Department of Mathematics and Statistics. Her thesis was co-supervised by Dr. Steven Rayan (PhD), from the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, and Dr. Jennifer Lang (PhD), from the Department of Music.

“My thesis was about the different ways we can mathematically model the singing voice—basically, how we can either represent what is going on physically when someone sings, like the movement of their vocal folds, or how the sound waves produced during singing can be modelled directly,” Reid said. “These models can be useful for a lot of things, like understanding voice pathologies, as visualization tools for voice pedagogy or even to create sound effects and totally artificial singers. So, it is important to understand how the different types of models work and which are best suited to different modelling tasks.”

Another highlight of Reid’s undergraduate experience was working as a summer research assistant in the lab of Dr. Regan Mandryk (PhD), a faculty member in the Department of Computer Science, in 2018, 2019 and 2020. Reid had the opportunity to work on several projects in the lab related to the field of human-computer interaction (HCI), including one that involved gamifying cognitive psychological tasks.

“Last summer I started working on a project about toxicity in games, specifically how we can use machine-learning techniques to identify toxic behaviour automatically from voice chat data,” Reid said. “I ended up continuing the toxicity project for my computer science honours research, and just finished writing a paper about that.”

Outside of her busy academic schedule, Reid still found time to perform as a member of the Greystone Singers choir, the Saskatoon Opera chorus, and the USask concert band, as well as to enrol in ballet classes. She is grateful for the guidance and support she received throughout her studies from Rayan, Lang and Mandryk, as well as from her voice instructor, Dr. Garry Gable (DMA), and pianist and vocal coach Kathleen Lohrenz Gable.

“I would say the best part about studying here was being able to pursue all the things I love in a really supportive environment,” said Reid. “I was able to work with great professors and research supervisors, and I met a lot of talented and passionate students who helped to inspire me to do my best.”

After receiving her degrees, Reid plans to continue performing and singing whenever she can. She will also begin a master’s degree in computer science at the University of British Columbia, with a focus on HCI, in the fall.

“I really like interdisciplinary research. There are so many overlaps between different subjects that are just waiting to be explored, and seeing how it all comes together is very rewarding,” she said. “I also believe that you can learn a lot from other disciplines, like new ways to solve problems or think about the world.”

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