Current Projects

UT–St George

UTSG01Storying Domestic and Piped Water in Nigerian Literature

Supervisor: Comfort Azubuko-Udah (English)

This project tunes into a relatively unspectacular form of water to ask: why is such a ubiquitous aspect of everyday life so largely absent from African realist fiction? And, what narrative roles can it play in contemporary African stories? Student RAs and I will work together to identify and select useful materials including scholarly publications, stories, and other representational media that deals with, or may mention, domestic water in Nigeria. RAs will then provide detailed notes and coded annotations on the materials they have read. This project will appeal to students interested in African literatures and cultures, and urban humanities.

UTSG02Feminist and Queer Poetics, Data Visualization, and Creative Engagements with Special Collections

Supervisor: Claire Battershill (iSchool, English),

This project proposes a reconceptualization of literary and historical special collections using the methods of queer and feminist poetic analysis, visual art, poetics, and creative data visualization. Students participating in this SiR will engage in direct work with U of T special collections (including the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library and the Massey College Library in particular). Students with expertise in computer science, specifically data visualization; visual studies and/or graphic design; creative expression; and/or feminist/queer methods will be most welcome.

UTSG03Higher Education for Sustainable Development: Tracking University Commitments Worldwide

Supervisor: Elizabeth Buckner (OISE)

Sustainable development is one of our most pressing global challenges, and universities around the world have committed to supporting the Sustainable Development Goals. This project is building a unique dataset on how over 17,000 universities worldwide incorporate sustainable development into their missions, teaching, research and operations. Student researchers will collect data from official documents, social media, and public websites. Example indicators will include whether sustainable development is included in the universities’ mission statements and whether the university has a Sustainability Policy or dedicated office. Reading fluency in languages other than English is an asset but not required.

UTSG04Innovation in the Depth of Empire: Toward a Black Atlantic Theory of Absence

Supervisor: Kamari Clarke (Criminology, Diaspora and Transnational Studies)

In a field where absence seems to dominate Black cultural, social and political life, this project advances a theory of presence in the Black Atlantic world, and explores the possibility of excavating new social archives in rendering transparent forms of social life. We will create an online collaborative database on Black Trans-Atlantic cultural artifacts, including proverbs, stories, jokes, stories of disappearances, and new forms of memorialisation. This project involves documenting social practices that are often dismissed as unintelligible, irrelevant or unknowable in the Black Atlantic world but will be central to making sense of the innovative possibilities that characterise contemporary Black social life. This project might appeal to students interested in Black, Caribbean and African Studies, History, and more. Proficiency in a Caribbean or African language will be considered but not necessary.

UTSG05Building Automatic Speech Tools in Low-Resource Languages

Supervisor: Ewan Dunbar (French)

Automatic speech tools (speech recognition, speech synthesis) have a big problem with “low-resource languages”: languages which, unlike English, Mandarin, etc., lack the massive data sets usually needed. They represent the majority of the world’s languages, including many languages spoken in Canada (e.g., Cantonese, Anishnaabemowin, Acadian French, Gaelic). Recent "self-supervised" machine learning shows promise in reducing the data needed to build speech tools. Students will work in a multidisciplinary team (linguists, engineers) assessing how these techniques perform on a language relevant to the Canadian context, including developing a speech corpus. A solid linguistics background is necessary; programming experience is not.

UTSG06European Refugee Musicians in Canada, 1937-1950

Supervisor: Robin Elliott (Music)

Despite the restrictive immigration policies of the time, during the World War II era and its immediate aftermath roughly 100 musicians, most of them Jewish, fled from Nazi-occupied Europe and found safe haven in Canada. Exploring a wide range of primary and secondary source materials, this project will create an online biographical dictionary to shed light on these musicians and their contributions to the postwar cultural life of Canada. Student RAs will develop skills in academic writing, using archival materials, website development, and twentieth-century history; knowledge of music would be an asset but is not a requirement.

UTSG07Editing John Galt's Short Stories: Romantic, Transatlantic, Global, and Gothic

Supervisor: Angela Esterhammer (English, Victoria College)

John Galt (1779-1839) was a bestselling British Romantic novelist and a key figure in nineteenth-century Canadian settlement. Student RAs will be involved in a large international project to publish the Works of John Galt. In 2023 we will focus especially on Galt’s short fiction, which spans themes of travel, fantasy, and gothic, and settings from Upper Canada to Asia. By researching annotations, fact-checking, proofreading, and working with Galt’s manuscripts and first editions, students will gain experience in scholarly editing and the publication process. Background in nineteenth-century literature and history is useful; the most important qualifications are accuracy and enthusiasm.

UTSG08Liberating the Land: Campus Foodscapes in the GTA

Supervisors: Eva-Lynn Jagoe (Spanish and Comparative Literature); Michael Klassens (School of the Environment); Nicole Spiegelaar (School of the Environment)

This project aims to create a network between garden/farm projects at UT’s three campuses and campuses across the GTA. In addition to planting seeds and growing food in a new garden at Innis College, students will conduct a literature review on campus urban growing spaces, and engage in experiential research with GTA campuses. Students will produce the first Campus Urban Agriculture guide in Canada, which will include practical techniques and strategies for growing food in urban settings with student populations. The guide will incorporate guidance on how to work strategically with facilities and administration within an academic institution.

UTSG09Historicizing 'Sustainable' Development: Everyday Stories of People and Nature in Central America

Supervisor: Sharlene Mollett (Human Geography)

Historicizing ‘Sustainable’ Development investigates, across time and space, the multiple ways in which Indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples in Central America are represented as “obstacles” to, and their environments as places in need of sustainable development. Student RAs will conduct interdisciplinary and historical data collection to curate everyday stories of people and nature from diverse materials such as, Latin American/Caribbean historiographies, photographs, novels, newspapers, travel literature, and laws relevant to colonial and postcolonial land development. Students with interests in History, Latin American/Caribbean Studies, Geography, Black and Indigenous Studies; Environmental Humanities, and/or women and gender studies are especially encouraged to apply.

UTSG10Margaret Atwood: The Major Novels

Supervisor: Ira Wells (Victoria College)

This project provides a rare opportunity for hands-on research in Atwood’s archives at the Thomas Fisher Library, focussing on the major novels (The Handmaid’s Tale, Cat’s Eye, The Robber Bride, Alias Grace, and The Blind Assassin) published between 1985 and 2000. Together, we will trace how these novels evolved through drafts and editorial feedback, analyzing Atwood’s related journalism, speeches, publicity documents, letters, and original research files. Student RAs will acquire archival skills and methodologies, a practical understanding of how the publishing industry works, and gain unprecedented access into the creative process of one of our greatest writers. Students with enthusiasm and familiarity with Atwood (and any of the novels under investigation) are especially welcome to apply.

UTSG11Instruments of Empire: The Forgotten History of Modern Mapping in the Middle East and the World

Supervisor: Adrien Zakar (Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, IHPST)

This project investigates the forgotten history of modern mapping’s integration into everyday life – from paper maps and pocket atlases to satellite imagery, drones, and GPS. Participants will develop cutting-edge methods in digital research and spatial analysis, recenter non-hegemonic voices in the archive, and contribute to the creation of a platform for humanities research, 2/3D games, and heritage curation particularly in the Middle East, South Asia, and Europe. Relevant skills include navigating large digital archives and databases, Turkish, Armenian, Greek, Syriac, Arabic or French language skills, familiarity with Python, Git, and 3D Software (Rhino and/or Unity). Feel free to mention previous coursework and experience in related fields.


UTM01Impoverished Aesthetics: Marginality in Latin literature and Contemporary Art

Supervisor: Lorenza Bennardo (Classics)

The Impoverished Aesthetics project investigates marginal states of being (abjection, illness, deprivation, etc.) in ancient Latin literature. Can such states contribute to the audience’s artistic pleasure? Can they grant us insight into subaltern social identities (e.g. marginal intellectual voices; the poor, defeated, and destitute; women)? Can the exploration of marginality in Latin literature enrich our understanding of contemporary artistic experiences? Student RAs will compare instances of ‘impoverished aesthetics’ in ancient and contemporary literature and art (e.g. domestic violence in Seneca and David Lynch; the positioning of female subjectivity in Ovid and Margaret Atwood) and share their findings through a series of blog posts.

UTM02Not A Fishing Tale: Learning about Sustainability from Historical Indigenous Fishing Practices

Supervisor: Alicia Hawkins (Anthropology)

Food security, climate change, and Indigenous rights intersect in the domain of harvesting and management of wild species, including fish. Recent unsustainable fishing practices have led to the collapse of fisheries, but before European colonization sustainable fishing practices supported flourishing Indigenous communities in Ontario. Archaeology provides an avenue for exploration of this sustainable practice. This project delves into fishing practices by the Wendat in southern Ontario, and uses historical documents, geographic information systems, analysis of archaeological artifacts and linguistics to supplement earlier findings from identification of fish bones. Reading knowledge of French is preferred; training in GIS will be provided.

UTM03Investigating Ancient Technologies via Hands-on Replication, Experiment, Ethnographic & Textual Accounts

Supervisor: Heather Miller (Anthropology)

Necessity is seldom the mother of invention. Through diverse research projects related to archaeological investigations of technologies, SiR scholars will gain new views of human innovations and traditions as related not only to functional needs, but also social relations, economic situations, and religious and cultural belief systems. Projects chosen will depend on scholars’ backgrounds, including work with recent ethnographic objects from Papua New Guinea (looped string bags, arrows, grass skirts, musical instruments); analysis of copper casting debris from the Bronze Age city of Harappa; and creating replica tools for other research projects (from stone drills to rat-tooth wood carving tools). 

UTM04Chinese International Students' Embodied Transnational Identity Negotiation and Raciolinguistic Experiences

Supervisor: Zhaozhe Wang (OISE)

This project investigates Chinese international students’ transnational identity negotiation embodied in everyday literacy practices and raciolinguistic experiences in higher education during a time characterized by heightened geopolitical tension between China and North America and COVID-19-induced anti-Asian racism. Student scholars will gain hands-on research training and experience in reviewing and synthesizing relevant scholarship, understanding research ethics, developing interview protocols for qualitative research, and recruiting participants. No previous qualitative research experience is required. Student scholars with interest in case study design, Chinese international student experience, literacy and writing studies are encouraged to participate.

UTM05Evaluating the Impact of Storytelling in Computer Science Education: A Qualitative Analysis

Supervisors: Tingting Zhu (Geography, Geomatics and Environment), Andrew Petersen (Mathematical & Computational Sciences)

This project will study the advantages and disadvantages of digital storytelling videos compared to traditional lectures. Student RAs will analyze student responses to a survey. The results can be used by educators to improve digital storytelling design and create a framework for educational digital storytelling resources. We intend to publish the results as part of a larger project, Reimagining Computer Science Education through Digital Storytelling with Tangible Objects.

Student RAs will:

  • Prepare, organize, analyze, and interpret qualitative data
  • Code qualitative data in NVivo using grounded theory approach
  • Describe the themes and develop a codebook

Training in qualitative research methods, NVivo, research ethics, and data analysis will be provided. Prior computer science knowledge is not required.


UTSC01The Scarborough Social Atlas Project

Supervisor: Ahmed Allahwala (Human Geography)

Inspired by Rebecca Solnit’s Infinite Cities Atlas Trilogy, the Scarborough Social Atlas combines scholarly research and mapping practices in the creation of a new social cartography of Scarborough. In this multi-disciplinary project, each student will serve as the academic lead of a mapping project and bring their disciplinary expertise to the collaborative. Possible topics include indigeneity, migration, food, music, queer culture, religion, architecture, green spaces and non-human species. End-of-program deliverables include a map for each project and a curatorial essay. Students will receive training in archival and database research, mapping, and narrative research. Students from all disciplinary backgrounds are encouraged to apply.

UTSC02Deconstructing Hip-Hop Music's Politics

Supervisor: Mark Campbell (Arts, Culture and Media)

The goal of this interactive media project is to build an educational resource that allows users to engage hip-hop musical texts from multiple disciplinary perspectives. We will work to reveal and analyze the ways hip-hop culture’s creative practices, informed by the culture’s aesthetic foundations, are used, in order to create a multidisciplinary interactive educational resource. This project welcomes RAs with interests in hip-hop culture, historical research, diaspora studies, and de-colonizing movements. Skills in web design, GIS mapping, video editing, data visualization and programming are needed; proficiency in French, Spanish, Creole, Arabic, Tagalog, or Visaya are an asset, but not required. RAs on this project will develop a nuanced and sophisticated suite of research and project management skills.

UTSC03How Can We Teach Effectively in Canadian Prison?

Supervisor: Philip Heron (Physical and Environmental Sciences)

How can we connect with students who have low confidence, or negative perceptions of education? Think Like A Scientist is a specialist science course for people in prison, beginning in Canada in 2023. Successful applicants will help create a classroom dynamic that is relatable, accessible, and inclusive to all people. We are particularly interested in creating new course material on addiction, mental health, and better understanding neurodivergence. Our project needs fresh perspectives, and we believe the undergraduate students will bring new ideas to the table based on their lived experience. We encourage applications from diverse backgrounds.

UTSC04Mapping Evictions in Ontario

Supervisor: Julie Mah (Human Geography)

To better understand the prevalence and geography of evictions in Ontario, this project will involve the creation of a unique database. This database will form the foundation for future work that examines these research questions: Where are evictions occurring? Are they concentrated in gentrifying areas? Who is evicting more? All of these questions carry important policy implications. Student RAs will help with inputting and cleaning the eviction filings database in preparation for mapping and linking to other datasets. Students should be familiar with Microsoft Excel, though RAs will receive training on creating Excel pivot tables, data manipulation, and geocoding.

UTSC05 Playing with Stories: Developing a Critical Encyclopedia of Video Game Narratives

Supervisor: Sonja Nikkila (English)

Student RAs will develop a critical encyclopedia for video game narrative studies: we will lay the groundwork for a digital, collaborative, and evolving resource that offers definitional entries as well as sample critical analyses and discussions of exemplar games. We will begin by absorbing foundational information on video game analysis––narrative lenses, categories, vocabularies, etc.––and plot a framework for the encyclopedia, including an outline of topics and proposed organization. We will explore a range of research resources (from the library to “the internet” to the games themselves) in order to extract and synthesize information for entries.

UTSC06Media Messages and Reporting on Race: Differences in Discourse

Supervisor: Hadiya Roderique (Arts, Culture and Media)

Canadian media uses often negative narratives that carry powerful, coded messages about particular groups in society. There is evidence that the work of BIPOC reporters provides counter-discourses to these narratives through more nuanced portrayals of topics related to race. This project seeks to examine how white and BIPOC journalists report on race differently. Each researcher will be assigned a case study, collect reporting on these cases, and use critical discourse analysis and content analysis to analyse differences in reporting. This project appeals to students interested in Journalism, Media, Communications, Black and Indigenous Studies, and Cultural Studies. Previous experience or exposure to critical discourse analysis is an asset, but training will be provided.


ONLINE01The Practice of Perspective in Du Cerceau's Works at the British Museum

Supervisor: Georges Farhat (Architecture)

This UK-based, online-only project explores perspective in French architect Du Cerceau’s (1511-1585) works. It studies his British Museum drawings and etchings of buildings and gardens, as well as two 1600s Bodleian Library English manuscript translations of his 1576 treatise on perspective. RAs will assist in (a) reconstructing perspective schemes and (b) transcribing and tabulating translations. Required skills are: Either (1) digital drawing and perspective techniques; Or (2) English paleography (ideally with some knowledge of French). Scholars will learn how to articulate methods and findings regarding drawing practices and technical literature. Your work will inform presentations and publications.

ONLINE02Exploring Online Teaching Efficacy and Instructional Practices in the Post-Secondary Context

Supervisor: Julia Forgie (Victoria College)

This study explores the range of self-efficacy beliefs that Canadian post-secondary instructors hold about their teaching practice. It seeks to investigate and compare instructors’ teaching efficacy across in-person and online teaching contexts and to explore curricular decisions as instructors plan and implement online/hybrid learning. Scholars with interest in post-secondary education and online teaching and mixed-methods research, including participant recruitment, data collection (administering online surveys, involvement in interviewing participants), data entry and coding, data analysis and the development of a literature review, are encouraged to apply. Training in data collection procedures and SPSS and NVivo data analysis software will be provided.

ONLINE03Identifying and Coding National Education Reforms for the World Education Reform Database (1945-2021)

Supervisor: Rie Kijima (Munk School)

The World Education Reform Database (WERD) is the most comprehensive database of over 10,000 national education reforms between 1970-2021. The objective of this program is to extend the WERD by identifying and coding education reforms dating back to 1945. Student RAs will receive training on how to identify and code education reforms from doctoral students at Stanford University. Working with publications produced by international organizations, the RAs will apply the coding scheme developed by the team to identify and code reforms. They will also participate in team building exercises and fireside chats on topics such as public policy and education.

ONLINE04Foreign-Origin Words in Turkish: An Experimental Investigation of Speakers' Mental Lexicons

Supervisor: Gözde Mercan (Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations)

The Turkish language has several foreign-origin words, particularly from Arabic, Persian, and French. This project seeks to understand whether adult Turkish speakers of different age groups show different linguistic behaviour regarding these foreign-origin words and their Turkish alternatives. It adopts an experimental psycholinguistic perspective, employing a web-based “lexical priming” task. Student RAs will receive training and gain hands-on experience at all stages of psycholinguistic experimentation. Students interested in Turkish, linguistics, and digital humanities are encouraged to apply. Some knowledge of Turkish and/or other Turkic languages is desirable but not required. Familiarity with Arabic, Persian, and/or French is also an asset.

ONLINE05Constructing Biographies of Digital Humanities Data Sets

Supervisor: Seamus Ross (iSchool)

Data sets and databases play a significant role in humanities scholarship. How these data sets came to be created, maintained, and used, and their impact on humanities scholarship, has been the subject of limited study. This project is a preliminary effort to construct biographies of some of these databases  and understand their role in transforming humanities scholarship. Student RAs will construct biographies of digital humanities databases. This project is particularly suited for students in the humanities with an interest in how digital technologies are reshaping humanities scholarship. The project will begin with an introduction to the field and end with a workshop where students will present the results of their scholarship.

ONLINE06Measuring Social Skills and Group Dynamics with Virtual Games

Supervisor: Román Andrés Zárate (Economics)

Play Together is a virtual platform we have developed to measure teamwork and leadership abilities and study group dynamics among individuals of different characteristics using virtual tasks and games. We are currently working on implementing field experiments with interested partners in Latin America. Student RAs will help with a literature review on related topics to the project; contribute to the project with the data analysis to implement the experiments and generate the code to study the performance indicators on the platform; and help us to identify websites to run online experiments with the tools we have developed.