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A portrait of Diana Cardenas Pinzon

Diana Cardena Pinzon

Arts + Social Sciences › School for International Studies
OpenMedia
Graduate Research Intern

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Pixabay.
Make the most of your Master’s program by participating in Mitacs Accelerate, a program that matches postgraduate students with companies that need their expertise to develop crucial research in the industry.

Have you ever felt anxious about what to do after finishing your graduate degree? Well, you are not alone. Many students think they need additional experience to prepare them for the next steps in their careers. What if I told you there is a program that offers it all; the opportunity to apply the knowledge of your graduate studies, gain professional experience and have peer-reviewed research.

It may sound ambitious to want to do it all - the syllabus itself is a considerable load. However, some programs offer you the possibility of "killing two birds with one stone." The Mitacs Accelerate Program is an internship you can take as your co-op term while developing academic research and acquiring knowledge to incorporate into your own Thesis or Extended Essays. Many companies require the expertise of graduate students, and you might be just the right person for the job!

About Mitacs Accelerate Program

Mitacs is a not-for-profit organization that fosters growth and innovation in Canada by solving business challenges with research solutions from academic institutions. Mitacs is funded by the Government of Canada along with the Government of Alberta, the Government of British Columbia, Research Manitoba, the Government of New Brunswick, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Government of Nova Scotia, the Government of Ontario, Innovation PEI, the Government of Quebec, the Government of Saskatchewan, and the Government of Yukon.  

The Accelerate program is a paid internship that pairs students with companies or organizations needing academic expertise to develop quality research to transform and improve industries. 

 You will work with a professor and the company to prepare the research proposal. The proposal must have a minimum duration of 4 months, and the financing starts at $15,000. If approved, you would spend half of the time working for the company and half with the academic institution. 

The program is open to Canadian and international students in Master's and PhD programs. It's available for research proposals in all disciplines, and you can send your application at any time in the year. That is awesome, but it gets better!

Benefits for You

These are some of the main benefits of participating in the Mitacs program. 

  • Gain professional experience through a paid internship that will help you familiarize yourself with the work environment.

  •  Apply the knowledge you have obtained in your study program. It is the opportunity to demonstrate the value of your work and knowledge!

  • The financing is intended to pay for the student's work, research expenses, and other project costs determined by the academic supervisor. However, in any case, the student will receive no less than $10,000.

  • The minimum duration of the program is four months, which fits perfectly with the work term for Co-op. Still, if you wish and the company is willing to finance the project, it can be longer.

  • The research proposal will be peer-reviewed by experts in the field, so you will have quality research that you can add to your CV at the end of the project. 

  • You can try to make the topic of your Mitacs project match the subject of your Thesis or Extended Essays. That way, any literature and information you get from this project can contribute to your graduation plans. Just make sure that if you are using data from the company or organization, they authorize you to do so. 

You can find more information about the program on the Mitacs website

What to Expect When You Begin the Process

If you decide to participate in this program, here are some things worth knowing before you begin. 

  • Perhaps the most challenging part of the process is getting in touch with a company or organization willing to fund research. Mitacs offers some tips to find such companies and also has a "researchers wanted" section on their website. You could ask your departments' professional development coordinator or a faculty member for assistance. 

  • If you are conducting any research that involves humans (surveys, interviews, medical information), you will need to get the approval of the Research Ethics Board (REB) before starting your internship. This process requires the preparation of documents like informed consent and questionnaires. Find more on the process here

  • Once you have submitted your application, it can take 6 to 8 weeks for Mitacs to review it and give approve. My recommendation is to use this time to prepare any documents you might need for the REB process (if applicable).

  • Once you have been accepted to the Mitacs program and have the REB approval, you can start your internship. You should know that your payment will be processed by the University directly, and it can take a few weeks to receive it. Plan ahead, knowing the payment won't go through immediately after you begin the internship. 

  • As part of the Mitacs program, you will have to complete a final report, some online courses and an exit survey.

My Experience at OpenMedia

In my case, I started the process in early January of 2021. With the help of the professional development coordinator in SFU's School of International Studies, I got in contact with OpenMedia. I had to present them my resume, my portfolio and do an interview to ensure my skills matched what the organization was looking for. Together, we submitted the proposal to Mitacs at the end of April, and it got approved in mid-May. 

About OpenMedia

OpenMedia is a non-profit organization that advocates for keeping the internet open, affordable and surveillance-free. The organization seeks to educate, engage and empower internet users to advance digital rights. There are three work pillars:

  • Access, so everyone can enjoy fast and affordable networks, 

  • Privacy, to protect peoples’ data and make them feel secure when they use the internet 

  • Freedom of expression, to ensure everyone has a voice to comment, debate and connect with the world. 

You can learn more about the work of OpenMedia here

My OpenMedia Project

My research project consists of finding out the opinion of Canadians about content moderation on online platforms. The government is currently proposing legislation to regulate what Canadians can post and view on platforms. However, these proposals lack the democratic contribution of the users, who are directly affected. This study proposes a survey combining academic rigour with OpenMedia advocacy expertise to solicit nuanced views of content moderation practice preferences from the Canadian public.

The program has been very enriching and has allowed me to meet several objectives. I did my co-op term while conducting research that I hope will have significant Impact on legislation. Moreover, I am incorporating knowledge and data acquired during the internship into my MAIS Extended Essays. 

So, yes, you can have it all! Just look for existing opportunities that offer you the advantage of articulating several objectives under one project. Be strategic and organized, and you will make the most out of your Master's program at SFU. 

About the Author

A portrait of Diana Cardenas Pinzon

Diana Cardena Pinzon

Arts + Social Sciences › School for International Studies
OpenMedia
Graduate Research Intern

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