Rutgers University-Camden is a proud research institution, and as shown by the annual Celebration of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity (CURCA) and Arts and Sciences Dean’s Undergraduate Research Fund, its dedication to research extends not only to faculty and graduate students, but to undergraduates, as well. The Department of Computer Science recently formalized its commitment to undergraduate research, launching the Computer Science Research Academy this fall.
Directed by Dr. Rajiv Gandhi, Associate Professor of Computer Science, this program grew out of a presentation Dr. Gandhi gave in November 2013, called, “From Potential to Promise: Developing Scholars, One Eureka Moment at a Time.” The talk featured the stories of alumni and current students, such as Bradford Greening, CCAS ’09; Brian Brubach, CCAS ’14; and Robert MacDavid, CCAS ’14, who worked closely with Dr. Gandhi on various research projects and went on to achieve great success, such as earning a doctorate and beginning a fellowship at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, publishing a single-authored research paper, and beginning graduate work at a prestigious university, such as Princeton, respectively.
Dr. Michael Palis, Professor of Computer Science, and Dr. Desmond Lun, Associate Professor of Computer Science and chair of the department, were inspired by the presentation and decided, along with Dr. Gandhi, to create an official research program to which students would apply. If accepted, students would receive grants, funded by various departments and faculty, and would be required to work 8 – 10 hours per week, for the entire academic year, leading up to a presentation in late spring where they will reveal the results of their work.
Eight students applied and were accepted as part of the program. Though the academic year is still new, the students are already hard at work on their research projects. James Kelley (CCAS ’15), a computer science major and biology minor, is working with Dr. Lun on a project called “Metabolic Optimization and Simulation Tool,” which is an extension of a project he has been working on for many years now. James’ ultimate goal is to earn his Ph.D. in computer science, and knew the Computer Science Research Academy would be a great way to prepare for this endeavor.
For computer science major Hoon Oh (CCAS ’16), the Computer Science Research Academy was ideal because he was always interested in research, and now had a proper forum. “I like spending time thinking about problems, coming up with new algorithms, or trying to better analyze algorithms. The Computer Science Research Academy provides an opportunity for students to learn and challenge themselves with harder and more specific problems in their area of interest.” Hoon is currently studying a problem called “Telephone Radio Broadcast,” with Dr. Gandhi and Dr. Guy Kortsarz, Professor of Computer Science.
Dr. Gandhi, a passionate supporter of undergraduate research, knows from experience that engaging in research is a key way for students to stand out in both the job market and in the graduate school application pool. For the students enrolled in the Computer Science Research Academy, their future is very bright indeed.
Written By Julie Roncinske