The first few weeks of 2024 have been busy as the Profound Impact team continues to work with universities and colleges and industry partners across Canada to deploy our AI-powered Research Impact tool, which matches researchers with the best research funding opportunities in their field and helps find industry partners to support successful grant applications. Through our innovative new partnership with CS-Can|Info-Can, the first of a series of collaborations with researchers across Canada, Profound Impact is providing CS-Can|Info-Can member Computer Science departments and researchers with free evaluations of Research Impact. Interested in learning more about Research Impact? You can view a video here or sign up for a live demonstration during one of the bi-weekly Demo Days that the Profound Impact team will be presenting throughout 2024.
I was pleased to share my insights on building Profound Impact’s team and our successful and healthy small business culture in the Grow a Small Business podcast. Profound Impact and my work were also featured in an edition of Women’s Biz podcast, where I talked about my journey in information security, my role in commercializing Elliptic Curve Cryptography, and the inspiration behind founding Profound Impact.
In August of 2023, Profound Impact announced the successful close of a $3.125 million pre-seed funding round of nearly all female investors, including many first-time angel investors. Inspired by this achievement, I joined forces with Profound Impact board chair Deborah Rosati and Lara Zink, VP of Client Service and Development at Delaney Capital Management, to create Women Funding Women Inc. (WFW). This collective, which challenges the status quo in the venture capital world and with first-time female angel investors by breaking barriers and building bridges for a more inclusive investment community, will launch in Toronto on February 7. You can read more about how WFW plans to change the VC landscape in Disruption Magazine’s recent article.
In this month’s Impact Story, you’ll meet WFW co-founder Lara Zink and learn more about her journey from working as a political aide to a successful career in finance. In our Researcher Spotlight, we profile Dr. Luigi Benedicenti, Professional Engineer, researcher and Dean of the Faculty of Computer Science at the University of New Brunswick, whose career took him from Genoa, Italy to Regina, Saskatchewan to Atlantic Canada.
We hope you enjoy this month’s edition of Profound Connections!
Dr. Luigi Benedicenti joined the research community in Canada after receiving his Laurea in Electrical Engineering and Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Genoa in Italy. A Professional Engineer licensed in Saskatchewan and New Brunswick and a licensed Italian Engineer, Luigi joined the University of New Brunswick as Dean of the Faculty of Computer Science, Canada’s original faculty of computer science, in 2017.
Luigi’s interest in software engineering was sparked in high school when he worked on a version of a computer game being developed by Electronic Arts. The game was never released, but his appreciation for making and playing games led him to study computer engineering in his hometown of Genoa. “My father, who was a surgeon, was devastated when I didn’t follow in his career footsteps,” says Luigi. “But he did support me as I followed my passion.”
His journey from Italy to Canada came as a result of his academic supervisor’s move from Genoa to Calgary. Luigi traveled to Calgary to meet with his supervisor while completing his Ph.D. and applied for positions in Canada after graduation. He started his tenure at the University of Regina in 1998 as a lecturer. “When I landed in Regina, I didn’t have the right clothes. I was prepared for the weather in Calgary, but not for Regina’s temperatures of -30 to -50 degrees. The wind was so cold and deep that my eyelids froze the first time I walked to work!”
Luigi describes his 19 years at the University of Regina, where he served as a professor in the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science and terms as Associate Dean for Special Projects, Associate Vice-President, Academic, and on the university’s Board of Governors as faculty representative, as an unforgettable experience during which he learned a lot and was afforded many opportunities for growth and innovation. While in Saskatchewan, Luigi developed strong connections with industry through his participation as a board member for SpringBoard West Innovations and SaskInteractive and as a Research Professor at TRLabs, where he conducted research in software engineering, mobile agents and media provision for 11 years.
“Being an academic involves, by definition, a relationship with the public. We are contributing to the common good and there are many ways to do that. Ours is a collective effort that has a significant impact – both via our research findings and through preparation of the next generation of researchers through teaching,” notes Luigi. “I love teaching and research in more or less equal measure. They provide a nice balance and generate ideas as I move from one to the other. Teaching often provides surprising insights to my research.”
Luigi’s research focuses on Software Agents, Software Process, and New Media Technology and he specializes in program management and technology transfer. His interdisciplinary work has provided opportunities to collaborate with colleagues in Europe, South East Asia and across North America. Although his role as Dean limits the time he is able to devote to research, Luigi continues to publish regularly, run conferences and symposia in his field, and has been a member of the Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board (CEAB) from 2014 to 2021. “Being on a national accreditation board has been an exciting and challenging experience and I am humbled by my colleagues, who always bring contributions of the highest quality,” he says.
He is proud of the research excellence within the Faculty of Computer Science. “The Canadian Institute for Cybersecurity is one of the top three such research institutes in Canada,” notes Luigi. The outstanding young researchers within the institute balance between pure and applied research and provide immediate technology transfer to industry members through graduates who join those companies.
Spectral, UNB’s spatial computing training and research lab, combines virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality to bring together the digital and physical. Under the leadership of Dr. Scott Bateman, the lab conducts research with applications in areas including aerospace, health training, therapy and rehabilitation. “It’s one of the best User Interface/Human Computing research labs in North America,” says Luigi.
One of the faculty’s newest research ventures, the Research Institute in Data Science and Artificial Intelligence (RIDSAI), was developed in response to New Brunswick’s needs in the areas of AI and data science. “RIDSAI does more than conduct pure research,” says Luigi. “The institute is developing algorithms, applications and literacy in machine learning and data science to graduate students who will have the tools to succeed in a world that relies on these technologies.” RIDSAI researchers from a range of disciplines work to develop solutions for community and industry partners in areas ranging from policy and planning to entertainment, agriculture and health.
Luigi is deeply committed to excellence in the classroom and collaborative decision-making and is appreciative of the flexibility, interest and engagement of the members of the Faculty of Computer Science at the University of New Brunswick. “We can do something great and everyone can contribute in their own way,” he says. “Our collaborative culture leads to the good of the faculty as we work together on the mission and targets identified in the vision document we developed almost four years ago.”
A self-described passionate computer geek who loves programming, software engineering, computers, video games, and everything IT, Luigi also enjoys playing and creating music, traveling, and e-biking and is a pizza aficionado. As for his future plans, he says: “There are three stages to a career. I am exiting the middle and starting to prepare for the final stage. For me, retirement is about choice. I plan to work on research that has been postponed, experiment with pizza dough and enjoy hiking, skiing and life in general.”