In a first-ever survey of PhD graduates from the University of Toronto, the School of Graduate Studies found that alumni who graduated between 2000 and 2015 are working in 97 different countries, with careers ranging from neurosurgeon to user-experience researcher.
About 60 per cent of graduates across all disciplines found work in academia, and roughly a third hold tenure-stream positions. However, the data suggest PhD graduates are increasingly ending up outside the academy. Comparing the cohorts of 2015 to 2000, nearly twice the proportion of PhDs were employed in theprivate sector (23 per cent as opposed to 13 per cent).
U of T News went beyond the numbers by speaking to four PhD graduates and one current student, about their time here, why they pursued a PhD and how it has prepared them for the future.
Inmar Givoni, Machine learning (2005-2011)
Department of Computer Science
The similarities between the human brain and artificial intelligence are often overstated, Givoni says. But in her case, an early fascination with neuroscience preceded her interest in machine learning.
In high school, she became interested in one of the body's great mysteries: brain functioning. She grew up aspiring to become a neuroscientist, and spent a summer in a lab studying the rat's visual cortex.
She changed her mind after taking a course in machine learning at Hebrew University and switched her focus to artificial intelligence. “I thought, 'OK, I still want to do research, but instead of trying to understand the brain, maybe I can focus on trying to create machines and build algorithms that mimic what the brain does.'”
That goal led her to U of T, a world leader in the field. She was paired with her adviser Professor Brendan Frey, the founder and CEO of startup Deep Genomics, which uses machine learning to develop genetic medicines.
She graduated in 2011 and now applies her research to her work as an autonomy engineering manager at Uber in Toronto. Over and above technical skills, she says she learned to be her own boss.
“You're not doing [the work] because someone is telling you to do it,” she says. “You really have to have the motivation within yourself.”