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08 October

From an article in the Montreal Gazette we have the following exerpt:

McGill ranks No. 18 in world


McGill University's very good week just got better.

The Times Higher Education-QS World University Rankings puts McGill among the top schools on the planet, placing 18th in 2009 rankings released today.

McGill, which likes to see itself as Canada's answer to the Ivy League, is the only Canadian institution to crack the top 25.

By Gregory Dudek at | Leave a comment |    
18 October

Last week I was in Mexico and gave a keynote talk at the International Congress on Multidisciplinary Research at Monterrey Tec (more formally Tecnologico de Monterrey). The general chair was Dr. Marco Iván Ramírez-Sosa Morá n who turns out not only have be working on some interesting topics in control theory, but to be an extremely nice guy. The meeting and the campus were quite impressive. It also didn't hurt to have a chance to warm up a bit. In addition, I had a chance to visit Luz Abril Torres-Mendez who is now a faculty member at Cinvestav in Saltillo, Mexico. Her lab is looking at computer vision systems for underwater vehciles, among other things, and thus shares several interests with our own lab.

In a bit of free time one afternoon I visited the Desert Museum in Saltillo. It's quite diverse and includes an exhibition on fossils, dinosaur reconstructions, a huge taxidermy collection, a substantial live snake collection (serpentarium), various cacti, and lots of other stuff. Well worth checking out if you are in the area.

By Gregory Dudek at | Leave a comment |    
06 November

MacLeans magazine has announced their annual ranking of Canadian universities, which should appear in the text issue of the popular magazine. The annual ranking has been appearing for many years now, and ranks most Canadian universities after dividing them into different categories based on their size and breadth of program. Clearly, having more categories allows more first-place winners and generally higher scores (having N categories can increase the average score by as much as N/2). This year McGill came first in the category for the biggest research-intensive universities (the "medical doctoral category", meaning only universities with medical schools are included).

In the same category, the University of Toronto and Queen's University were tied for second place. Since I work at McGill and have attended both Queen's and McGill, I guess I have the top three schools covered. They are, of course, all great but I'd choose McGill myself.

I'm now starting to feel that these reports on university rankings are appearing too often in my blog, for example re. the Globe ranking and the Times of London ranking.

This is going to sound a bit too much like the "hype-McGill" blog, but here's how McGill's Principal put it:

"... this autumn has been particularly memorable. In the same week, we learned that two McGill alumni, Willard Boyle (BSc’47, MSc’48, PhD’50) and Jack Szostak (BSc’72), had won Nobel Prizes, and that McGill had moved up in the Times Higher Education-QS World University Ranking to become 18th in the world. McGill is the only Canadian school to rank in the top 25 universities internationally for six years consecutively, and has been North America’s top publicly funded university for two of the past three years. And for the fifth year in a row, McGill was Canada’s number one medical-doctoral university in the Maclean’s magazine university rankings. "

Just to provide some balance, I would like to note that the windows in my office have not been washed for two years, and that the carpet in my student's office is awful. Even though we go to the McGill facility in Barbados for experimental work, the facilities there are very humble and in the old days 10 people shared a single washroom (it's somewhat better now).

By Gregory Dudek at | Leave a comment |    
06 January

In late December I acted as a plenary speaker at the EVIC Robotics Summer School in Santiago Chile. The Summer School seemed good with a nice selection of talks and poster presentations. In particular I visited the lab of Javier Ruiz-del-Solar at the Universidad de Chile. They have a large team there that is going a lot of very interesting work including walking humanoid robotics, robocup systems, hardware design, robotic mining applications and algorithm development.

Santiago itself seemed prosperous and interesting, but not as exciting from a tourist point of view as some of the outlying regions of Chile, which has a diverse set of different climates and ecosystems. While there I took a quick trip to the town of San Pedro in the Atacama desert, one of the most dry places on Earth. If I find time, I might post some photos eventually.

By Gregory Dudek at | Leave a comment |    
26 August

I had the honor of speaking at a working at MIT yesterday on the testing of robotics systems. My own talk was heavily based our experiences testing our robotic boat, robot plane and underwater vehicles. The field trials we do involve a range of challenges in terms of experiment planning, but also including logistics, safety and team management.

The workshop overall was motivated by a project called PATFrame that deals with understanding and optimizing test planning, especially for large military-sponsored robotics projects. Other participants from the US government and military spoke about the challenges of testing adaptive systems that both change over time, and also exhibit performance which depends on (variable) features of the environment. In short, it is essentially impossible to cover al possible conditions when a system is so versatile and complex.

As intelligent systems gradually approach the complexity and richness of humans, testing them definitively will become as tricky as testing people. Even when you think you know a person very well, they can exhibit surprising behavior and there is no way to preclude the same phenomena from robotics systems. This poses a challenge not only for testers, but for society at large.

Robot Attack
Robot Attack: did we test it enough

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06 May

Captain Kirk, sometimes known as William Shatner, will be receiving an an honorary degree from McGill University at the convocation in June. I had heard about this prospect in Senate a while ago, and being sworn to secrecy has been causing me grief ever since -- my wife and kids were probably wondering why I looked so strange every time his name came up at the dinner table. Yes, I admit that I live in a world where William Shatner, or Captain Kirk, comes up as a subject at the dinner table now and then, although sometimes it's because a building here is unofficially named after him (on the other hand, I confess that I do remember offhand what the Horta like to eat and how to make a bandage for one).

William Shatner, by Jerry Avenaim, This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic

By Gregory Dudek at | Leave a comment |    
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