Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Verrazano Student Participates in Computer Science Research at CSI

Michael Cicero, a Verrazano junior majoring in Computer Science, has been involved in research at the CUNY High Performance Computer Center.  Michael stopped by to share his experience being involved in undergraduate research at the College of Staten Island.

Michael, could you tell us where you are participating in research and a bit about the research?        

I am currently doing research at the CUNY High Performance Computing (HPC) Center at CSI.  The research I am involved in is on the behavior of a special colony of Mole Rats found in East Africa.  The Moles are set up in a lab and their motion through the cage is tracked by RFID chips that are implanted into them. Each time a rat is tracked by an RFID reader, a piece of data is read into a computer. My job is to write software programs to organize the data into a more usable form.  The goal is to be able to understand the social behavior of these mole rats through a mathematical model of their movement throughout the day, which is produced using computers. It is ultimately a computer science approach to classical psychology experiments. 

How did you find this undergraduate research opportunity?        

I learned about this opportunity through The Verrazano School.  I was actually introduced to the experiment leader by Katie Geschwendt.

Before you officially got involved in the project did you have any concerns?        

Actually, yes. I was a little uncertain as to how research was actually done and I did not know what to expect; but after I started I knew it would be a great experience.        

Is your research experience credit-bearing, paid, unpaid, etc.?        

The research is paid.

What, if any role, does your faculty advisor play in your research experience?     

My faculty advisor allows me to work independently while checking in every so often to guide me in the right direction. This arrangement helps me to learn most things "on-the-job" while at the same time teaching me things I haven't learned in the classroom yet. 

What made you decide to participate in this particular research project?  

The experiment seemed out of the ordinary and that was very appealing. I wanted to get work experience in the computer world and this opportunity was a great match. It delves into the field of scientific computing, a sub-field of computer science, which could be a possible career choice when I graduate.

Are there any additional benefits to your research? 

Over the summer I enjoyed many benefits of the research. I attended multiple science seminars and conferences at the CUNY Graduate Center as well as CSI, which were very intriguing

What is it like working with other students and/or faculty members?      

Over the summer I worked alongside a fellow CSI computer science student as well as two computer science students from Montpellier, France who were doing a summer internship at CSI. It was really cool working in a team setting. We worked under the guidance of Professor Imberman of the CSC department and Professor Kress, the VP of Technology at CSI. It was valuable to see how the computer people and the psychology people interacted with each other to make the experiment work. I learned that every person plays an important role. 

Can you describe a typical day for us?

A typical day doing research was meeting at the HPC center, Professor Imberman’s office, or Professor Kress’ office. We would always update one another on the progress of the experiment and plan the next steps. During the semester it is more difficult to meet often, so a lot more is done through e-mail.

What would you say is the most interesting thing about the research you are involved with? 

The most interesting thing about the research, to me, is using the High Performance Computers. The computing power is remarkable and it is truly a privilege to work with them.

How does your research experience relate to your undergraduate studies (major or minor) and/or your future goals?    

I major in Computer Science and minor in Mathematics, and this research, in a nut shell, is the application of both fields to real-world problems. There is no doubt that this experience will aid me in the future, whether I use what I learned or get recognition by an employer for such an “unusual” research experience. 

Do you have any photos you’d like to share?

I have a photo of some of the summer research team taking a break to enjoy the beach. You can't be working ALL the time! 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Verrazano Senior Spends Summer at the Rockefeller Archives

Deryn Cro, a Verrazano senior majoring in History and English Literature, spent her summer interning at the Rockefeller Archive Center.  We had the chance to catch up with Deryn and learn more about her summer internship experience.

Deryn, could you tell us where you interned and a little bit about that organization?

I interned with the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC) in Sleepy Hollow, New York.  The center houses the papers of the Rockefeller family, the Rockefeller Foundation, Rockefeller University, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund along with other philanthropic instutitions such as the Common Wealth Fund and the Russell Sage Founation.

How did you find your internship?

I googled the phrase "archival internship" and it was one of the first results to pop up!

That's proof of the power of internet searches!  What was the application process like?  Were there any challenges or surprises?

The application process was pretty straight forward.  I had to submit a resume, cover letter, letter of recommendation and a transcript.  My interview was conducted over the phone which was something I had never done before.  I was able to have notes though, and I found that to be quite helpful.

Did you have any hesitations or concerns prior to starting your internship?

I had to find housing in Westchester which was somewhat challenging.  I was nervous about living with strangers, but I was able to get in touch with the other girls in the internship ahead of time.

Was your internship credit-bearing, paid, unpaid, etc.?

My internship was paid.

That's excellent!  Did your faculty advisor play any role in your internship?

My faculty advisor wrote me a letter of recommendation for the application which was very well received by the application committee.

What made you decide to choose this summer internship instead of another opportunity?

I had learned about the Rockefellers in school and was very interested to learn more about the family and their philanthropic endeavors.  Unlike other programs I was looking at, this one also offered guest lectures, a mentoring portion, talks with RAC employees and trips to many other archiving institutions.  I also liked the idea of traveling to some place I had never been before.

Were there any additional benefits to your internship?

I was able to visit many places connected to the Rockefellers and other collections of the RAC.  I also got to attend a summer picnic at Kykuit, the Rockefeller mansion in Tarrytown!

It sounds like you really got to explore another part of New York State this summer.  Could you describe a typical day at your internship?

My schedule changed day to day depending on the events or lectures they had scheduled.  I generally arrived at 9:00 a.m. and would work on my project for most of the day.  Twice a week at 10:00 a.m. I attended talks by guests or archivists who worked at the archive center.  These talks ranged from discussions on archival practices and the field to topics related to the Rockefellers.

What was most unique or interesting about your internship experience?  Is there anything that stands out as your reflect on your time at the internship?

For me it was the collections I worked with and the artifacts I got to see.  I processed the collection for Nobel Prize winner Max Theiler which included his Nobel Prize!  I was also able to see a piece of John D. Rockefeller Jr.'s wedding cake.  They keep it in an unassuming box in one of the vaults.

That sounds fascinating.  Did your internship relate at all to your undergraduate studies or your future goals?

I am currently applying to Master of Library Science and Information Science (MLIS) programs with a concentration in Archival Studies.  This internship allowed me to gain valuable experience and network within the field.

Deryn, thank you so much for sharing your summer experience with us.  We wish you the best for your senior year!

For more information on internships at the Rockefeller Archive Center, please visit: