Dr. Raymond Spiteri (right) is the recipient of the 2021 Mitacs Award for Exceptional Leadership in the Professor category. (Photo: Submitted)

USask professor receives Mitacs Award for Exceptional Leadership

University of Saskatchewan (USask) College of Arts and Science professor Dr. Raymond Spiteri (PhD) is the recipient of the 2021 Mitacs Award for Exceptional Leadership.

Since 2002, Spiteri has led a myriad of Mitacs-funded research projects involving a total of 19 industry partners and employing 21 USask student interns.

The award is given by Mitacs to an academic supervisor with an exemplary record of developing collaborations with industry partners, providing valuable research and training experiences to interns and initiating research projects with significant outcomes. Mitacs funds research projects directly involving an industry partner. This partner could be a local business, a non-profit organization or a large corporation.

“I believe internships are one of the most useful things students can do to prepare for the job market,” said Spiteri, a computer science researcher and director of the USask Centre for High-Performance Computing.

“One underlying goal was always to help the company solve a particular problem. Another goal was to give the students experience working in industry to prepare them for when they graduate.”

Spiteri said the student projects vary in topic and purpose, but the outcomes are always significant to both the intern and the company they are working with.

“Some projects are rather small in scope, for example, help the company get past a last hurdle to get a product ready for market; others are much larger — a company may base its entire business model on the internship developing a certain technology,” said Spiteri.

One of Spiteri’s Mitacs-funded research projects involved USask intern Sean Trim in collaboration with Clear Skies Developments. The goal was to design a method of fitting clothing on a virtual avatar for Internet shopping purposes and develop marketable software for online retailers to offer their customers.

Another project paired USask’s own Canadian Light Source (CLS) and intern Veeramani Chidambaranathan to develop an improved computer model to assist in the decision-making process of CLS staff about proposed system upgrades.

The internship experiences are impossible without the guidance and expertise of their supervisors. Spiteri said he normally serves as a guide for his students as they progress through their projects by facilitating communication between the student and the host company and helping them through any rough patches.

“It is wonderful to see how many projects and problems companies have that a student intern can tackle and make a meaningful contribution to.”

For more information about Mitacs, visit https://www.mitacs.ca/.