Naveen Ramesh, a North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics residential student from Charlotte, North Carolina, is researching autonomous vehicles and how well they interact with the environment, a project that has opened his eyes to just how versatile computer science can be.
“This is my first time doing actual research, and it’s been a fun experience, to say the least,” he said.
“Since I’ve never actually conducted a real research project, I definitely learned a lot about the process…There are endless possibilities, so hearing about the different projects that my peers are doing surprised me. I was fascinated because I didn’t know you could do so much.”
Ramesh was taking part in an opportunity for NCSSM residential and online students to broaden their understanding of programming and computer science, Summer Research in Computer Science within the Summer Research & Innovation Programs.
Students learn how to conduct research and literature reviews, narrow down their own research questions, and implement code to run experiments that seek to answer their questions.
“Computer science explores and pushes the boundaries of what computers can do,” said Instructor of Computer Science Keethan Kleiner, who leads the program. “It’s helpful to differentiate it from computational science, which is using computers to do scientific research, versus computer science, where students study computing.”
This summer, projects included a wide range of topics including working to create a new air pollution dispersion model, looking at ways to reduce algorithmic bias, comparisons of facial recognition models, and more.
Kleiner says that one of the best parts of leading Summer Research in Computer Science is seeing how students’ mindsets shift throughout the process. “They go into it looking for cool things to program,” he says. “And they end up coming out of it thinking more about what can be explored in the field.”
During the three-week program, students learn not only how to conduct research and how to implement code for their projects, but they also learn that they can conduct research in computer science, which often sounds intimidating.
Ryan Krasinski, a residential NCSSM student from Burlington, North Carolina, is researching different methods of encryption, which he decided to pursue after participating in a cybersecurity forum during his junior year at NCSSM.
“This is my first experience with scientific research, and it made me feel important to do the same things that researchers are doing,” he said. “My proudest moment of SRIP was completing my second algorithm,” he said. “I am trying to do three, and the first one was difficult, but I got it done. I spent basically a whole week doing the second one, and when I got that one done, I gave myself a pat on the back.”
At the end of the day, Kleiner hopes to build confidence in programming and computer science applications among his students.
“It’s really great seeing students who have maybe some – but not the most – programming experience learn that they can be computer scientists,” said Kleiner. “I think that’s what this is really all about.”