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Supported Research Experiences Cultivating Confidence in Computing

This Q&A highlight features McKenna Lewis, recipient of an Honorable Mention in the 2021 CRA Outstanding Undergraduate Researchers award program. McKenna is a computer science major and currently works as an undergraduate researcher in the UCSD School of Medicine. In McKenna’s interview, she shares how she has benefited from showing resilience through faltering confidence and how supportive research programs and mentors helped her succeed. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Protecting Internet Infrastructure from Earthquakes

This month’s research highlight showcases Juno Mayer, an honorable mention recipient in the 2021 CRA Outstanding Undergraduate Researchers award program. Juno graduated from the University of Oregon with a B.S. in Computer & Information Science and minors in Mathematics and Music Technology. He now works as a software engineer at Zais Group, a credit management firm based in New Jersey. This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Demystifying Robot Plans, Discovering Her Own

This Q&A highlight features Ellie Mamantov, recipient of an Honorable Mention in the 2021 CRA Outstanding Undergraduate Researchers award program. Ellie graduated from Carleton College in June 2021 with a double major in computer science and psychology. She is now a computer science PhD student at Yale University. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Engaging in Research Through Researching Disengagement

Curious about summer opportunities in computer science, Courtney Miller learned about Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REUs) in her first year at the New College of Florida. Having assisted in clinical trials in high school, she was eager to give research in computer science a try. “I really enjoyed that experience, so I figured it couldn’t hurt to try out academic research.”

Transferring Into Impactful Computing Research

When Sara Boyd transferred to Southwestern University (SU) as a sophomore, research was not on her radar. That quickly changed when she attended the symposium for Southwestern’s SCOPE program, a university-wide summer research opportunity for undergraduates from any major. “I was fascinated by projects that used AI to generate art, music and competitive Pacman playing agents,” Sara recalls. “SU prides itself on its interdisciplinary opportunities, and here I was able to see it first-hand.” Sara left the symposium thinking research might be worth trying someday.

Cutting Through the Noise: Improving Weakly Supervised Machine Learning for Practical Applications

Esteban Safranchik hopes to harness the potential of weakly supervised machine learning to impact fields beyond computer science. Now a PhD student at the University of Washington, Esteban got his start in research as an undergraduate at Brown University. His work was published at the 2020 Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI) Conference and is also used by economists and data scientists.

Goodbye Accounting, Hello High-performance Computing

Janaan Lake is living proof that it’s never too late to pursue a career in computing. After working 17 years as a Certified Public Accountant, she decided the time was right to pursue a computer science degree and enrolled at the University of Utah. “Although changing careers in midlife has been more challenging than I anticipated, it has also been more rewarding.” 

Advancing the Theory of Programmable Matter for Swarm Robotics and Multi-Agent Systems

Joseph Briones wants to help robots work together more effectively. While double majoring in Computer Science and Math at Arizona State University (ASU), Joseph has worked towards extending the theory of programmable matter for applications in swarm robotics and multi-agent robot systems. His undergraduate research revolved around the 3D Amoebot model for self-organizing particle systems, a 3D programmable matter simulator. His work also resulted in two publications to the 2018 and 2019 International Symposium on Self-Stabilizing Systems. Currently, he is a computer science PhD student at his alma mater, furthering the research he started as an undergraduate.