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No humming and hawing here: Australian researcher tracking mysterious sound in Calgary

Twenty-one-year-old undergrad Wilmer Yan is making an educational journey around the world this summer. Wilmer, who calls Sydney, Australia, home, is in Canada as a Mitacs Globalink intern where he’s working with Professor Mike Smith at the University of Calgary.

The Aussie is researching a strange phenomenon dubbed ‘The Ranchlands Hum’— a mysterious noise that has plagued residents in the northwest Calgary community of Ranchlands since 2008.

Wilmer’s project is helping to improve a cell phone application created by Professor Smith and previous Globalink interns that allows residents in the area to record the hum for further analysis. Wilmer is using artificial intelligence to develop something called ‘automatic noise source identification,’ which will filter out background noise, like traffic, to help researchers compare the hum from different parts of the neighbourhood in search of its source.

“If the project is a success, we hope to use this approach in industry where their analyses require filtering out sounds like equipment operator conversations, cows mooing, and even frogs croaking in marshy areas,” says Wilmer.

Earlier this year, Wilmer was in the United States taking part in a study abroad program at the University of Pennsylvania. He says he jumped at the chance to head north to get a foothold into Canadian research.

Wilmer says Canada is living up to the reputation it has in his homeland Down Under. “Canadians have a stereotype of being very, very nice, and I believe that’s completely true. Australians and Canadians get along so well. It’s been amazing. The people I’ve met here and the experiences I’ve had, I honestly can’t wish for a better place to intern.”


Mitacs would like to thank the Government of Canada, along with the Government of Alberta, the Government of British Columbia, Research Manitoba, and the Government of Quebec for their support of the Globalink Research Internship program. In addition, Mitacs is pleased to work with the following international partners to support Globalink: Universities Australia; the China Scholarship Council; Campus France; the German Academic Exchange Service; Mexico’s Secretariat of Public Education, Tecnológico de Monterrey, and the National Autonomous University of Mexico; Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Education; and Tunisia’s Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research and Mission Universitaire de Tunisie en Amerique du Nord.