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University’s Samantha Stahlke taking on the ‘next great frontier’ in technology

Graduate student receives prestigious AI scholarship from the Vector Institute

University of Ontario Institute of Technology graduate student Samantha Stahlke (centre, pictured with academic dignitaries at Convocation in June 2018 for winning the Faculty of Business and Information Technology medal for highest grade-point average for her undergraduate Bachelor of Information Technology degree) is among the inaugural recipients of the Vector Institute Scholarship in Artificial Intelligence.
University of Ontario Institute of Technology graduate student Samantha Stahlke (centre, pictured with academic dignitaries at Convocation in June 2018 for winning the Faculty of Business and Information Technology medal for highest grade-point average for her undergraduate Bachelor of Information Technology degree) is among the inaugural recipients of the Vector Institute Scholarship in Artificial Intelligence.

From the time she was a youngster, Samantha Stahlke knew she had a keen fascination for computers. Born in Oshawa and growing up in Whitby, Samantha distinctly remembers when her family bought its first personal computer.

“I was about four years old, and it was a Bondi Blue iMac G3,” says Samantha. “I loved that machine. I spent countless hours reading encyclopedias off CDs, playing games with my mom, making art in Kid Pix and Appleworks, and browsing articles on the web. I can probably trace my initial spark of interest in artificial intelligence (AI) to that period, though I didn’t really start toying around with coding until I was in high school.”

Despite her interest in computers at Sinclair Secondary School in Whitby, she thought she wanted to go into either biology or physics. Samantha enrolled in Physics at the University of Toronto. But within a month she knew the program wasn’t for her.

“Out of that experience though, I found a new passion in programming,” says Samantha. “One of the courses I’d been taking over that short time was an introductory course in Python, and coding quickly became a favourite hobby. It was my mother who suggested that I consider the Game Development program at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology as the perfect fit for me: the intersection of programming, art and mathematics.”

Samantha’s undergraduate achievement at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (2014 to 2018) was nothing short of phenomenal. She and two classmates (Josh Bellyk and Owen Meier) founded their own startup company Ominous Games. Samantha graduated in 2018 with Highest Distinction with her Bachelor of Information Technology (Game Development and Entrepreneurship) degree. She won the Governor General’s Academic Silver Medal for highest cumulative grade-point average. She also won the Faculty of Business and Information Technology’s (FBIT) faculty medal and even carried FBIT’s gonfalon (banner) at Convocation.

Now working on a master’s degree in Computer Science at the university, Samantha has won a prestigious Scholarship in Artificial Intelligence from the Toronto, Ontario-based Vector Institute, which focuses on research into AI applications and provides scholarships to graduate students. Samantha’s $17,500 scholarship was acknowledged at a networking reception December 13 at the Fairmont Royal York in downtown Toronto.

“Receiving this scholarship from the Vector Institute means the world to me,” says Samantha. “I am grateful to Dr. Pejman Mirza-Babaei (Graduate Supervisor) and Dr. Shahram Heydari (FBIT Graduate Program Director) for encouraging me to apply. It really helps solidify my confidence that I’m in the right field, and it feels wonderful to be recognized for something I’m passionate about.”

As for what happens next, Samantha believes AI is the next great frontier in technology.

“AI has the potential to revolutionize society in the same way the Internet did in the 1990s. With AI, we are effectively willing into existence a partner to solve every open challenge that’s out there, and many more challenges we have yet to conceive. AI will ultimately transform long-standing concepts about the traditional economy.”

She says the largest challenges facing us right now in AI are actually ethical rather than technical in nature: issues of privacy and eliminating our own biases from artificial systems.

“There will come a time when the AI discussion turns to the definition of sentience (the ability to feel), what it means to be human, and how we should treat our artificial counterparts. These are obstacles that could potentially blindside us, something we’re already starting to see with respect for consumer rights and privacy having seemingly vanished over the past few years.”

Samantha Stahlke still feels the same fascination she felt as a child for learning and the transfer of knowledge, in any form. Whether she is coding or perhaps teaching future generations, she plans to remain on the cusp of AI’s leading edge.

 

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Media contact
Bryan Oliver
Communications and Marketing
University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT)
905.721.8668 ext. 6709
289.928.3653
bryan.oliver@uoit.ca