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Digital

Increasing connectivity and digitization continues to change our world.

Digital is everywhere.

The increasing connectivity and digitization of our world, or the Internet of Things, continues to change everything, from how we catch a taxi, book a trip or turn on a thermostat.

There are forecasts that 50 billion devices will be connected to the Internet by 2020, representing a $19-trillion (U.S.) global market.

Challenges: Increasing amounts of data, cyber security, privacy, software safety and efficiency, security threats, ease of information sharing, social connectivity, hardware innovations (for example, smartphones, Fitbits)

Profile picture of Monika, a McMaster Engineering PhD software student

Meet one of our world changers

“I had two things in mind when it came to choosing a school: I wanted to study software engineering specifically, and I wanted my research to be practical.”

Sault Ste. Marie native whose parents immigrated to Canada from Poland. Her parents instilled a strong work ethic and a clear sense of purpose: Find a job with meaning that will make a difference to the world.

Growing up, Monika loved math, science and art. She toyed with the idea of becoming a mathematician or a doctor but then she discovered the world of coding and computer programming and was instantly hooked. “It was an aha moment. I can use all my passions and leverage them when I program. I can make programs and different applications in software for any number of domains.”

Graduate studies at McMaster Engineering offered Monika exactly what she was looking for: Top-notch education, practical real-world experience and world-class faculty who offered her quality mentorship. McMaster’s research is helping to ensure software going into a range of items from pacemakers to car brakes to nuclear power plants is safe. “I had two things in mind when it came to choosing a school: I wanted to study software engineering specifically, and I wanted my research to be practical.”

As a research assistant, Monika is part of a team of engineers working on the next generation hybrid vehicles for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. Monika’s role is to refactor code, or restructure existing computer code, in vehicle parts such as transmissions to make it work better without changing how it behaves within its complex software ecosystem. Why is this important? Every time a motorist moves from park to drive, for instance, that’s a decision your car’s software is making. Different sensors are balancing input from the vehicle and from the driver. If a motorist opted to move to park while driving at highway speed, for example, the car’s software wouldn’t allow it. Monika’s work helps keep people safe on the road.

Software testing is done in many phases, generally through calculations and computer modeling – not solely in real time in the field. An engineer would pass off her work to a specialist who was working on the component. Special teams are designated by automakers for testing.

Software is everywhere. It’s in our cars, planes, smartphones and even our fridge. A higher end car, for example, has more than 100 million lines of code. As the world becomes more connected and complicated, the need for engineers who understand both software and systems is increasing. “As a doctor you work on a patient-by-patient basis. Whereas here, if you’re working on a software project like I am, you’re affecting millions of vehicles and the safety of people, too. You’re in such an interesting position where you can affect people’s lives in a good way.”

McMaster Engineering offers rich opportunities both on and off campus. The EcoCar team, as featured in Racecar, is a student club that’s turning a muscle car into an environmentally friendly hybrid machine. Interested in being the next Snapchat CEO? Check out Hack It Mac where coding and hack-a-thons take centre stage, or the entrepreneurship program Spectrum. Like the stage? We’ve got an app, or a club, for that. Mac Eng Musical performs an annual show. Or take your interests off McMaster’s beautiful campus and get involved with the Hamilton chapter of Ladies Learning Code. “I see that there’s not a lot of women in technology and I would like to change that somehow. This was one of the ways that I could do that.”

Monika Bialy, PhD student, Software Engineering

Digital Daredevils

Mark Lawford, Computing and Software Professor
(One of Monika's PhD supervisors)

Making software reliable

When an engineer builds a bridge, she is required to perform standard analyses that produce direct evidence that the design satisfies regulations that help to ensure public safety.

The same can’t be said for software, which can be found in everything from cars to home appliances to health care equipment. Mark Lawford of the Department of Computing and Software has spent the past 17 years researching how to make software-controlled systems safer. By determining the best means of developing safety critical software and demonstrating system safety in a cost effective manner. Mark is providing the key enabling technology of the smart systems and smart cities of the future - safe, dependable software.

Learn how Mark's making a difference
Fei Chiang, Assistant Professor, Computing and Software

Improving data quality

Think about how much data you create every day: sharing updates and photos on social media sites, searching Google, filling in online forms, and making purchases with your credit card.

Fei Chiang wants to improve the quality of the increasing amounts of data collected by banks and other large enterprises. Poor quality data leads to financial loss and operational inefficiencies. Fei works to improve big data quality by designing and building software tools to keep your personal information private while automating this process for organizations, saving them time, money and improving data analysis results.

Learn more about Fei Learn how Fei's making a difference
Natalia Nikolova, Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering
Canada Research Chair in High-Frequency Electromagnetics

Keeping law enforcement officers safe

Law enforcement officials are constantly putting themselves in harm’s way, particularly in war torn areas.

Microwave engineering expert Natalia Nikolova is working to keep them safe by using pioneering innovations in microwave imaging and detection to enhance in security systems. Some of her recent work includes equipping soldiers and law enforcement with gear that could detect concealed threats, such as guns and explosive devices, used by terrorists and security threats.

Learn how Natalia's making a difference

Want to create better digital solutions? #ThinkEngineering