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Summer REU students cap off work with symposium

2017-08-01
Summer REU Symposium

Getting your foot into the research door isn’t always easy for undergraduates, but the Summer Research Experience for Undergraduates at the School of Informatics and Computing does its part to push the door open.

SoIC hosted its SoIC Summer Research Programs Poster Symposium July 28, showcasing the work done by 22 undergraduate students from IU and across the country. The program also hosted one Bloomington high school student, who got a head start on his research career.

“I’m really impressed with how motivated the students have been in the research,” said Katie Siek, an associate professor and Director of Informatics Undergraduate Studies. “A lot of them nearly have conference-ready papers and have plans to submit this fall. It has really been an exciting and energetic summer. A number of students have talked about changing their graduate career paths or changing their majors.”

The symposium featured researchers involved with SoIC’s Proactive Health Lab as well as SoIC’s Summer Research Opportunities in Computing (SROC) program.

Gabrielle Cantor, a rising sophomore in Intelligent Systems Engineering at IU, helped design technology to aid people suffering from discordant chronic comorbidities, which is the simultaneous presence of multiple chronic conditions with different treatment instructions. The condition, which is expected to impact 81 million Americans by 2020, hadn’t really been studied, and there hasn’t been a simple technological answer for helping people juggle treatments multiple chronic conditions. She, along with research partner Sergio Martin from the University of Transylvania in Kentucky, designed an app to help patients manage their treatments.

“I was interested in doing research, and this project stood out because it gives you the opportunity to study actual patients and look at health aspects, which are a really big issue,” Cantor said. “It helps people improve their health, but it also looks at it from an informatics aspect. It allows you to understand, analyze, and then use the data you collect to develop technologies. I really liked that idea.”

Ciabhan Connelly, a rising sophomore in political science at IU, conducted research on a new method in qualitative research, the Asynchronous Remote Community method, which uses online communities to build research data. Connelly’s work, conducted with Julia Dunbar from Siena College in New York as part of the Proactive Health Lab, aimed to develop a toolkit that could aid people using the ARC method in the future.

“I enjoyed research, and everybody here seemed to be working really hard and were excited about their projects,” Connelly said. “I thought it was something that would be fun for me if I wanted to get into research. It was a good decision.”

Connelly, who had been planning on minoring in French and computer science, is now thinking about changing his major to computer science instead.

“This work has really gotten me excited about computer science,” Connelly said.

Two other students who conducted research for the Proactive Health Lab—Mina Narayanan, a software engineering major from Auburn University, and Anne Freeman, a computer science major from Georgetown University—created kits for electronic crafts that could help older adults become more comfortable with embedded technology. They both liked the opportunity to use informatics to improve lives.

“I was most attracted to it because I really like health informatics in general,” Freeman said. “It’s a really interesting combination of computer science and human interaction. You get to talk to people and see what people need before you create a technology, and I really like that.”

Narayanan used the research to explore her interests.

“I didn’t really know what health informatics was going into this,” Narayanan said. “I knew I was kind of interested in the intersection of health and computer science. I thought this field would be great to check out this summer, and I’m really glad I did.”

This marked the second year for the SROC program, which is partially funded by the National Science Foundation. The experience from last year helped the program improve its pace and better prepare students to create papers for publication. It also was clear that students gained a better sense of the power of computing.

“For as important as this program is on the NSF end for understanding computing, most students come from traditional programs,” Siek said. “When they came here, they had no idea that machine learning with health data is a thing. I had no idea they could investigate how people could use maker technology to improve their health. It expanded their ideas of what health computing could be.”

Four students from the Center for Security Informatics--Olivia Kenny, Sophia Puzzello, Christopher Dillon, and Clint McElroy--also took part in the summer REU program.

For more information on the SROC program and SoIC’s REU opportunities, visit their website.

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