Kate Larson uses mathematical processes and computing power to solve real-world problems. One project the Waterloo researcher worked on used game theory to help fight forest fires in Canada.


Kate LarsonLarson hopes this kind of research, computer science that makes an impact, will inspire young women who attend this year’s Ontario Celebration of Women in Computing conference.


“We are excited to host this event at the University of Waterloo where so much cutting-edge computer research takes place," says Larson, associate professor in Waterloo’s David R. Cheriton School of Computer Science. “This is an important opportunity to showcase the exciting contributions being made by women in computing, and to inspire female students to pursue computing.”

The conference brings together female professionals, students and faculty who are interested in, or work in, computing. The conference, being held on Nov. 8 and 9, is in its fourth year and was designed to generate excitement about computing while providing women with opportunities for networking and mentoring.

Artificial intelligence, game theory and microeconomics

Larson, whose interests lie at the intersection of artificial intelligence, game theory and microeconomics, completed a study last year that looked at firefighting agencies as participants in a game. Game theory expresses strategy as a mathematical process. Variables can be valued and changed, enabling researchers to come up with simulations that add numerical logic to decision-making.

She and her research team conducted interviews across the country to understand how the provincial forest-firefighting agencies support each other through the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre (CIFFC) in Winnipeg.

“It’s game theory applied in a real-world situation, and it’s an interesting problem because of the high degree of risk and uncertainty these agencies work under,” says Larson. “How do you make the decisions to lend resources or not, and what are the issues for making those decisions?”

Previously held in Kingston, London, and Toronto, Ontario Celebration of Women in Computing 2013 is set to be the largest event in the annual series so far. In addition to hearing speakers, attendees will participate in a number of technical sessions, a research poster competition and a job fair.