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.


Vinyas HarishVinyas Harish

Engineering Labs and Operating Rooms


The field of medicine prides itself on being evidence-based, but where does that evidence come from? With aspirations for a career in medicine, this was one of the questions that fascinated Vinyas Harish, which would eventually lead him on a path from the engineering lab to the operating room. Although Vinyas’s research career began as an undergraduate at Queen’s University, his interest in understanding how science and engineering could be applied to medicine began much earlier. As a high school student, Vinyas attended a research open house where he met Dr. Gabor Fichtinger, whose students were demonstrating an open-source system for ultrasound-guided lumbar puncture. He recalls that after seeing what the realm of transitional clinical engineering was like, he knew he had to get involved. Upon enrolling as an undergraduate at Queen’s, Vinyas joined Dr. Fichtinger in the Laboratory for Percutaneous Surgery (PERK), where he would work during the summers after his first three years and the academic terms over his junior and senior year.

Louis JenkinsLouis Jenkins

Coincidence, Concurrence, and Careers


Planning for the summer after his sophomore year, Louis Jenkins had focused his efforts on securing an industry internship. However, in what he describes as “sheer coincidence,” Louis was forwarded a departmental email that would alter not only his summer plans, but his overall career trajectory. The email highlighted the NSF summer Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program, and with recommendations from both a professor and the Computer Science Department Chair, Louis was selected as one of 14 students from the PASSHE region (Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education). Louis chose the REU at Lehigh University under Dr. Michael Spear because of their shared interest in parallel computing, but he recalls that it was Dr. Spear’s mention that the problem they were trying to solve “might not even be possible” that sparked his interest and passion.

LarryLarry

From Pre-med to Ph.D. in Biomedical Informatics


Originally a pre-med student at Loyola University, Laurynas Kalesinskas had envisioned his undergraduate degree as a stepping-stone to attend medical school. An interest in research and a passion to create change in healthcare led him to computational research. Fascinated by the projects he worked on, Laurynas shifted his focus. Graduating with a Bioinformatics and Biology double major and minors in Computer Science and Biostatistics, he decided to apply to Ph.D. programs, and he is currently a first year Ph.D. student in Biomedical Informatics at Stanford University. 

YisuYisu

Proofs, Privacy, and Programming


Yisu Remy Wang was sophomore at Tufts University when he enrolled in Professor Kathleen Fisher’s programming languages course.  In that course, Professor Fisher exposed students to some areas of current research which sparked Yisu’s interest and curiosity.  Yisu spoke with Professor Fisher and she agreed to act as his research advisor.  This was the beginning of a mentoring relationship that shaped much of the rest of Yisu’s time at Tufts and has had a lasting positive impact.

A Running Start into Research


Christopher Mackie had an unusual entry into computer science. As high school student in Vancouver, Washington, he participated in the Running Start Program, which allowed him to obtain a 2-year associate degree in computer science at a local college while finishing his last two years of high school. He then enrolled in the BS/MS program in computer science at the University of Washington (UW). Although Christopher came to college with a substantial amount of computing background, he was mindful that he had not yet had the opportunity to work on a long-term open-ended problem.