August 6th, 2015
UIC Computer Science Undergraduate Students’ Potential Accelerates with a Special Mentorship
August 6, 2015
UIC Computer Science (CS) undergraduates Carlos Uribe, Brook Habtegiorgis, and Josh Rodriguez, under the mentorship of CS associate professor Liz Marai and CS PhD student Jillian Aurisano, are recipients of a grant from the Computing Research Association’s Collaborative Research Experience for Undergraduates (CREU) program. This grant, expressly for minority students, provides a small stipend to conduct research over the coming academic year.
This past summer, Marai provided these students, as well as several others, with Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) internships from grants she has from the National Science Foundation and other sources, to work at the UIC Electronic Visualization Laboratory (EVL) on visualizing complex combustion and cosmology datasets and displaying the results in EVL’s CAVE2™ virtual-reality environment. The students not only had to learn new software design, visualization and human-computer interaction skills to work with these large-scale scientific datasets, but had to learn how to do interdisciplinary research, give presentations and write papers about their work. This summer internship program was the basis of Marai’s grant proposal “Visual Encodings for Exploring Large Scale Scientific Data in Immersive Environmentsrdquo; to the CREU program, which now that it has been awarded, affords these students opportunities to continue to do research during the 2015-2016 academic year.
Marai is committed to increasing diversity in computer science. Habtegiorgis, Uribe and Rodriguez are African-American and Hispanic, which are minority groups in the computing field. Uribe and Rodriguez took Marai’s computer science class last Spring and received A’s; Habtegiorgis worked on an urban data visualization project under the direction of Aurisano, a board member and president of the Women in Computer Science club at UIC. Marai, impressed with their efforts to date, applied for the CREU grant because “I believe in their potential.”
While all these students have an interest in engineering, they came from disadvantaged backgrounds, had to overcome many hurdles, and only learned to to program relatively late in life. In the past year, they have caught up and surpassed their peers, which speaks volumes about their abilities. Given their REU experience this summer, most are now contemplating graduate school. All have said that they want to finish the projects they started this summer, whether they are funded or not.