Giulia Toti has always set the bar high — whether for herself or for her students. She pursues a great depth of engagement and tenacity, with a drive toward a high level of success in all aspects of her life. Now, Giulia is applying that same drive in her new role as Assistant Professor of Teaching at UBC, which started August 1. Her main topics of interest? Machine Learning and Data Analytics.
The pursuit of professional success
Giulia loves her job. “I want the students to engage in a deep and meaningful way with the curriculum. I have high expectations, but I will always give them the tools they need, and facilitate their learning in order to succeed,” Giulia said.
When she initially spotted the UBC Computer Science Assistant Professor position on a job forum, she became quite excited about the opportunity. “I was very impressed with the level of pedagogy they sought. The way teaching is structured at UBC promotes innovation, growth and advancement,” Giulia said.
She explains how much she enjoys being in class and interacting with the students to help them strive. “When they are really trying and even struggling, but are working hard to achieve a higher grade, it is extremely rewarding for me to watch that progression and the fruits of their labour.” At UBC, she is teaching Introduction to Systematic Program Design (103) this term, and Applied Machine Learning (330) next term. Read descriptions of courses.
In addition, her innovative efforts with a previous colleague during Giulia’s employment with the computer science department at the University of Houston (UH) paid off. They received a $30K grant for their co-development of a web-based IDE service.
Giulia is also conducting focused research on the concept of ‘Mastery Learning’ in order to figure out how to teach computer science more directly and inspire more engagement.
“Mastery Learning is about breaking apart big, complicated concepts into multiple, smaller concepts to be digested in small topics or units,” she said. The students are given multiple attempts to ‘clear’ the unit, thereby ensuring they fully understand the material before moving on to the next section. “As a result, the students become highly motivated and the passion for learning and success becomes intrinsic.”
Giulia took her Bachelor of Science and Master of Science at Politecnico di Torino in Italy, studying biomedical engineering. She cites a strong cultural difference in learning between Italy and Canada: the Italian model preserves more distance between students and professors, whereby there is little opportunity for students to interact directly with their professors, at least until later courses. She observes quite the opposite at UBC.
In 2012, Giulia left Italy for the United States to take her PhD at UH, then went to King’s College London where she was a Postdoctoral Researcher. Following that, she returned to UH to work as an Assistant Professor for almost four years, before landing her new position at UBC.
Attaining personal success
Giulia’s quest for success has permeated much of her personal life, too. She was on the podium for archery as a teen for Italy’s national championships. She also pursues competitive ballroom dancing in non-COVID times, and even fox-trotted her way to a first place finish at the regional competition in Texas. She is a skilled chess player and paints with acrylics.
The computer science department at UBC has pretty much hit the bullseye in hiring Giulia Toti, and we’re confident her students will feel the same way.