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Jason Ruixuan Zhang 

Jason Ruixuan Zhang is a second-year student majoring in Computer Engineering in the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering. Jason conducted research to help support Discovery @ UofToronto: The Educational Initiative, an outreach program that partners high school students with graduate student mentors to collectively work together and think critically about an assigned project akin to engineering capstone projects.   

Working with a research team, Jason investigated the resources available to help support graduate students in developing their pedagogical skills. Jason interviewed graduate students to better understand how asynchronous modules might help support them in their approaches to teaching high school students. With other researchers, he then analyzed the interviews using sentiment and thematic analysis, which included manual methods and natural language processing with NLTK in Python. As a Computer Engineering major, Jason saw how natural language process could be applied in different contexts which was very useful for Jason as it is broadly applicable to many aspects of machine learning and artificial intelligence.

Throughout this process, Jason learned about the research process. Being able to identify when you might be focusing on the “wrong thing” or how to respond to unexpected challenges in the research process. For Jason, this highlighted the importance of being a member of a research team and having the ability to go back to his research team and ask questions. 

Moreover, Jason appreciated the opportunity to understand how his pedagogical research would have a broader impact. As Jason shared, “It was particularly humbling seeing the sheer impact of the work they did, and the positive influence they continued to have on the local secondary school students they worked with.” Jason learned how the program gave greater visibility to high school students from historically underrepresented communities and encourages students to consider pursue engineering or the life sciences. One high school student, who Jason interviewed, even came back to work as an undergraduate student mentor. Although Jason intends to pursue more research in technical electrical and computer engineering, he continues to be inspired by the impact the Discovery program has on graduate and high school students.

Research Type(s): Research Assistantships