CRA-E’s “Undergraduate Research Highlights” series showcases outstanding research done by undergraduate students at universities and colleges across North America.  It is one of a number of CRA-E’s activities that foster and recognize  talented computing researchers with the goal of increasing the research pipeline, promoting graduate education, and advocating research-based careers.

Each article features the story of a successful undergraduate researcher and offers personal insights into their experiences with finding an advisor, undertaking new research projects, and discovering how research can impact their personal and professional futures. In addition to helping students understand the process of getting involved in research, the articles also serve as a venue for students to pass along advice to others who aspire to become involved in research themselves. Students selected for the research highlights include those receiving recognition in the CRA Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Award competition.

This series is written and edited by CRA-E Graduate Fellows. You can subscribe to be notified of new articles here.


A Drive to Understand

Alex Ozdemir is intensely curious about understanding how things work. Perhaps this curiosity is what drove him to pursue a self-designed major in “Computational, Mathematical, and Physical Theory” at Harvey Mudd College. After completing two summer internships in industry, Alex decided to try research. He began seeking research opportunities around campus. He remembered enjoying the algorithms that he’d studied in an introductory Computational Biology class, so he reached out to the professor, Dr. Ran Libeskind-Hadas, who happily agreed to supervise Alex on a research project.

Lillian TsaiLillian Tsai

Beyond the Valley

Growing up in Silicon Valley, Lillian Tsai had always assumed that a normal career path for a computer scientist involved working at a company or, perhaps, launching a start-up. That was the path that she imagined for herself when she enrolled at Harvard University and chose to major in computer science.  


Driven by Curiosity

While Gloria Kim’s interest in computing started in the classroom, her curiosity in deeper questions and desire to learn quickly took her outside of any curriculum. While taking an Introduction to Parallel Programming course with Prof. Vivek Sarkar at Rice University, Gloria found the topics led her to questions that fell outside the scope of the class. Rather than leave those questions unanswered, Gloria decided to take the initiative, asking Prof. Sarkar to join his lab as an undergraduate researcher in the summer following her sophomore year. In her research outside of the classroom, Gloria says she found even more enjoyment in learning for learning’s sake. “The entire process is driven by curiosity – question after question, as opposed to the contents of a syllabus.”


From Passions to Projects: How interest in design and art led to computing research

When Julia Woodward began her first year at the University of Florida, she did not know that her interests in design, art, and computing would ultimately merge to form an exciting path in computing research. During an introductory meeting for the Digital Arts and Science major, several professors gave presentations on  their work and research interests. Julia was particularly intrigued by the work of Dr. Lisa Anthony, whose research focuses on child-computer interaction. Julia reached out to Professor Anthony who agreed to advise her in research.