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Cutting Edge Research from Concept Grad Fund Winners

Beyond Pandemic Challenges, Hackathons, and our staple Pitch Competition, we also love to engage with UWaterloo Grad Students. Recognizing their deep specialized knowledge and commitment to their research, we created a fund exclusively for Grad Students and Postdocs. Thanks to the incredible generosity of Sam Pasupalak, Math Alumnus and co-founder of Maluuba (acquired by Microsoft in 2017) we are able to provide funding for promising Grad Students and Postdocs to help support cutting edge research being done at UWaterloo.  

This competition awards $35,000 to three graduate students or postdocs doing innovative research with high potential. First place receives $20,000, second place $10,000 and third place $5,000. The funding is intended to help advance the promising research, explore commercialization options, and/or help create a startup company.

We received incredibly impressive applications from Masters and PhD candidates, as well as postdoctoral fellows across all six faculties. From our applicant pool, the top ten were invited for an in-person interview to further discuss their research and its potential applications. All of the teams showed great promise, which made the final decision-making process quite difficult. Although all of the interviewees were impressive, ultimately three teams stood out above the rest.  

Joining our prestigious list of Grad Fund winners this Fall we have:  

1st Place: Jeremy Hartman – mtion Interactive 

PhD Candidate in Computer Science, Faculty of Math 

Concept Grad Fund Winner Jeremy Hartman- mtion interactive

Jeremy, also a Concept $5K winner, is researching the asymmetries currently present in videogame live streaming and how the spectator experience can be enhanced through the application of novel immersive technologies such as VR headsets. His startup, mtion Interactive, uses such technology to power a live streaming platform that lets the spectator be inside the game as it happens, giving them new ways to experience and engage with the live streaming content. 

The funding from this win will allow the purchase of new equipment used for testing, as well as help cover cloud infrastructure costs. Additionally, Jeremy and the mtion Interactive team will be growing as they plan to use some of the funding to hire interns/co-ops to help build their startup.  

2nd Place: Ilia Sucholutsky 

PhD Candidate in Statistics, Faculty of Math 

Concept Grad Fund Winner Ilia Sucholutsky

Ilia’s research focuses on enabling deep learning with small data. He showed the ability to train models on less than one example per class, dubbing it ‘Less Than One’-Shot (or LO-Shot) Learning. A great summary of this cutting edge research is available from MIT Technology Review.  Through this research, Ilia is exploring the idea that AI model should be able to accurately recognize more objects than the number of examples it was trained on. 

Most companies and researchers only have small data and limited computer resources so they can’t take advantage of new deep learning tech, Ilia is hoping that his research can change this and make AI more accessible and increase its use cases.  

3rd Place: Margaret Mutumba – MedAtlas 

PhD Candidate in Public Health and Health Systems, Faculty of Health 

Concept Grad Fund Winner Margaret Mutumba- MedAtlas

Margaret’s research focuses on the implementation of accessible and affordable fertility care in Sub-Saharan Africa. She plans to commercialize this work by leveraging technological innovations in healthcare to develop solutions that address the inequitable access to fertility care in Africa through MedAtlas. MedAtlas is a self-sustaining healthcare solution based on its huge potential for tele-health growth in Africa and ability for healthcare providers to expand their reach. 

In the next 4 to 6 months, Margaret plans to travel to Uganda to complete prototype development, then test and validate it based on feedback. After this stage is complete, the building will begin on their mobile health application.  

Keep an eye out for this promising research and budding new startups from some incredible University of Waterloo Grad Students! If your research has high potential for industry use or you are interested in commercialization, get started on this path by talking to one of our Concept Coaches, they can help you prepare to compete in this competition and win funding of your own!