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U of A team wins national STEM Fellowship Big Data competition

When considering her team’s win, Jessica Li described it as “largely unexpected,” but was “really happy” with the outcome. 

A U of A team competed with 400 other participants to be named winners at the Canadian STEM Fellowship Big Data competition.

Jessica Li, a master’s student in computational psychiatry at the U of A, participated in the two-month-long competition along with teammates Kevin Zhan, Rafay Osmani, and Xiaoyu Wang. The STEM Fellowship Big Data competition tasked the participants with finding a solution to the spread of misinformation on social media. Li’s team was the winner of the Hoffman-La Roche Infodemic Research Solution Award within the competition.

Her team built a misinformation detection tool for news articles shared on Twitter. This allowed artificial intelligence (AI) to detect misinformation present in news articles.

“We took Twitter data and found [the post’s] various characteristics… and put it into a machine learning algorithm which learned about all these characteristics and found a pattern,” Li explained. “That allowed the AI to predict whether the news article contains misinformation, and to like how likely it is that the news article had misinformation.”

Li initially entered the competition to develop her knowledge and skills in the AI field

“I decided to join the [STEM Fellowship Big Data competition] to really get a little bit of a feel of the tools that they’re using in the [AI] field, and just learn how to use the tools myself,” she said. 

When considering her team’s win, Li described it as “largely unexpected,” but was “really happy” with the outcome. 

“I was really grateful to my team as well, because I had a very strong team, and I owe it all to them for being a finalist,” she said. “We were able to catch first place among all the other finalists, which I thought was amazing because there were some very strong finalists out there from top-tier universities in Canada.”

For students looking to get involved in the AI field, Li advised seeking opportunities within student groups, and encouraged students to not get intimidated by the field. 

“AI may seem like a very daunting field to a lot of people because it seems so high-tech that only the most brilliant computer scientists can join,” Li said. “I would like to encourage anyone that just has an interest — check it out and maybe join [the field] the future.”

Areeha Mahal

Areeha Mahal was the 2021-22 News Editor and previously served as a Deputy Arts & Culture Editor and Deputy News Editor. Additionally, she is a second-year Biology and English student. When she’s not learning the Krebs cycle for the millionth time, Areeha enjoys stargazing, baking pies, and listening to Bob Dylan.

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