Calit2 Summer Scholars Poster Session Draws a Crowd

By Maureen C. Curran

Bill Hodgkiss at Summer Scholar Poster session
A large crowd of faculty, staff and students attended the Calit2 Summer Scholars Poster Session and Reception.

San Diego, CA, October 9, 2008 -- A large crowd joined in celebrating the achievements of the 2008 Calit2 UCSD Undergraduate Summer Scholars, packing the foyer at Atkinson Hall for their Poster Session And Reception. The event, held on September 23, followed the Calit2 Staff Meeting, during which four of the scholars gave presentations on their work.

The Poster Session represented the culmination of the undergraduate scholars' 10-week adventure of being paid, full-time student researchers actively involved in the research of their faculty advisor's lab, or on a project of their own, hands-on work that is usually reserved for graduate students and senior researchers. This year's projects represented a wide diversity of research subjects, 19 different broad scientific disciplines in all.

"I had been working on the project before summer, but I didn't have a lot of time to devote to the research because of classes," said Aditya Kher, "So, I didn't have a good idea of what I was doing. Now, I do and I really understand the importance of the research." Kher began his senior year as an engineering physics major last week. He worked with Yeshaiahu Fainman, a professor of electrical and computer engineering, on "Plasmonics for Sensing Applications."

sylvia hon and sarah prom
Summer Scholar Sylvia Hon (left) and Calit2 staffer Sarah Prom
[Photo by Richard Choi]

"Working with my advisor was really great," said summer scholar Benjamin Lotan, "his perspective always pushed me in a new direction." Lotan is a senior cognitive science major; his faculty advisor was Ricardo Dominguez, an assistant professor in visual arts.

During the poster session, videos were being made of each student with their poster discussing their summer's work. One of scholars, Andrea Tan, did an environmental engineering project entitled: "Weather Data Management System."

When Calit2 tour director Trish Stone brought Sabine McNeill through the short hallway on their way to the StarCAVE, they crossed paths with the filming of Tan and his poster. Serendipity.

"When I saw 'Weather Data Management System,' that was the key," said McNeill, "Ah! You are doing what I have been dreaming of doing.

Marchand, Recktenwald and Head
Sabine McNeill in Calit2's StarCAVE, inside protein data simulation.

"Climate data is dear to me and I'm working with someone in the former DDR who has developed a sensor that measures differently from conventional sensors," she explained, "I have always wanted to put that sensor together with my software because he also understands the value of showing multidimensional data and processing it.

"I am the mathematician and the software designer," she noted, "I'm not the engineer, nor the hardware person." McNeill spoke with Tan about his project and was impressed with the level of his and the other undergraduates' research. Tan made arrangements for her to be in touch with his faculty advisor, Jan Kleissl, an assistant professor in mechanical and aerospace engineering.

McNeill, currently based in London, England, was visiting Calit2 UCSD at the suggestion of David Goldberg, cofounder of HASTAC, who suggested she visit Calit2 UCSD. She met Goldberg at Calit2 Irvine, while attending the "Everyday Digital Money" workshop.

New this year, the Summer Scholars teamed up with SciVee, a Web 2.0 resource dedicated to the dissemination of scientific research and science-specific research networking. They have an innovative new video feature called a “Postercast’ that enables researchers at all levels to create a synchronized presentation. During the video presentation, as the researcher discusses a section of the poster, that portion is zoomed in on and enlarged for the viewer, while maintaining a view of the researcher. Once the video and the poster have been processed and paired, the students do the synching of their own presentation, creating the postercast. The postercasts are available on the SciVee website (link below); check back often as more will become available.

Toshiro Yamada , Mason Bretan and Sage Browning
(left to right) Toshiro Yamada , Mason Bretan and Sage Browning
Scholars received certificates for completing the Calit2 Summer Scholar program.

To enhance the research experience for the scholars, the faculty committee has designed weekly sessions which include seminars, building tours and presentations. Each student gives a presentation on their project at least three times during the program.

Research presentation sessions allow scholars to give updates, as well as gain presentation experience. The seminars offer insight into a number of aspects of academic research and career planning. The building tours enable the summer scholars to witness the cutting edge research taking place at Calit2.

"The presentations are a key element of the whole program," asserted Jurgen Schulze, a Calit2 project scientist, "Even though they're done with power point and orally, they require the same rigor in picking out what to present and how to present it as when you write a scientific publication. In essence, it's the same thing in the professional research arena as what the scholars have done in their weekly presentation sessions.

"This year I thought that the students had particularly well-structured and professional presentations," Schulze continued. This was his third year as a mentor in the program; he had two students this year: Mabel Chang and Sage Browning. Chang is remaining with the Visualization Group, continuing to work with Schulze on 3-D modeling projects during the school year. Zhang just begin her sophomore year as a computer science major. A description of her work this summer can be found in the link below to "Summer Scholars Take 'Audio-Visual' Research to the Next Level."

summer scholar poster session
The "postercast" videos of the students discussing their summer's work are available in the Calit2 UCSD Summer Scholar community on SciVee: here.

The scholars appreciate having the chance to hear about other projects. "It was really interesting to see people's presentations," said Anna Ostberg, "and to appreciate what other people are so enthusiastic about." Ostberg is now a senior majoring in cognitive science. Bill Griswold, her faculty advisor is a professor of computer science and engineering. Her project on interacting with large public displays was highlighted in an earlier article ('Audio-Visual' Research link below).

Anand Patel agrees. "The best thing about this program is interacting with other students who are doing various research in different areas," he said, "this was really beneficial to me, because I got to see what other undergrads were doing, not just those in my field." Patel, a computer science major, began his senior year last week. He worked with Vineet Bafna, assistant professor of computer science engineering, on "Modeling Fragmentation Patterns of ECD/ETD Mass Spectrometers."

For the first time in the program's eight-year history, 30 undergraduates were admitted (just one more than last year's 29 scholars). A complete list of awardees, their majors, advisors and project summaries can be found on the Summer Scholar website (see link below).

Throughout the summer, many researchers around Calit2, as well as the students' mentors have commented on the high quality of the students and their work.

"It was a very good year," noted Calit2's Schulze, "I hope that many of the students -- like Mabel with our group -- will remain in the research conversation and will work more with faculty advisors, perhaps the same ones, or others, but doing more research alongside taking classes."

Many of the summer scholars do plan to remain connected to their projects, if not still actively working in the lab, continuing their work into the next phase of their project, which in several cases, will be to write up their results for journal or conference submission.

"What gets me very excited is this trend towards more professionalism and better research results," summed up Schulze, "Eventually what we want is to have students that are going to be able to be world-class researchers in the future and when they start at the undergraduate level, I can only imagine what will become of them once they finish grad school."

2008 summer scholar group photo
2008 Calit2 UCSD Undergraduate Summer Scholars
Samie Romanin, program assistant (left) and Lovella Cacho, program coordinator (right) are kneeling down on the far right, front row.

Related Links

Calit2 UCSD Summer Scholars webpages
Calit2 Summer Scholar Community on SciVee (postercasts)
Sabine McNeill's website
UCSD Weather Data

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