Monte Carlo, Northern Saskatchewan

Mitacs Accelerate intern makes the wastewater flow in remote communities

When NexLev took on the challenge of automating the operation of wastewater treatment plants for communities in Northern Saskatchewan, Iskra explains, “we needed a mathematician, but not just any mathematician. We needed someone with the latest, cutting-edge knowledge in fields such as fuzzy logic, modeling, probability theory and Monte Carlo simulation. The problem was this type of person is extremely difficult to find and also very costly.”

However, through the Mitacs-Accelerate network and co-funding offered by the program, NexLev teamed up with Mahshid Atapour, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Saskatchewan’s computer science department, to successfully complete its objectives.

“Working with NexLev opened a whole new world for me,” says Atapour. “Whereas previously I was focused on the academic aspects, this gave me a new perspective how my research expertise in things like applied probability can be used to make things function more efficiently and see how this knowledge translates into real-world applications,” she says, noting that – counter-intuitive as it may sound – wastewater treatment plant automation is almost entirely dependent on the concepts her research background has made her so well-acquainted with. “It involved using very complex logic, which is basically all mathematical, it was very relevant to my usual field of research because about 90 per cent of the work I did with NexLev involved exactly my field of specialty.”

The academic supervision that the Mitacs-Accelerate entails also helped build confidence for NexLev, Iskra said. “The people at the University of Saskatchewan kept telling us how great she was. And they were right, she truly was. The collaboration between the University of Saskatchewan and NexLev was so smooth it also setup a platform for future collaborations.”

Mitacs thanks the Government of Canada and the Government of Saskatchewan for their support of the Accelerate research internship in this story. Across Canada, the Accelerate program also receives support from Alberta Innovates, the Government of British Columbia, the Government of New Brunswick, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Government of Nova Scotia, the Government of Ontario, the Government of Prince Edward Island, the Government of Quebec, and Research Manitoba.

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