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! 

No comments:

Post a Comment