Valpo Undergraduate Computer Science Research Program
Valpo’s undergraduate research program for computer science was established before computing and information sciences became a department distinct from mathematics and statistics. Professor James Caristi developed this pioneering program, which assembles teams of undergraduates at various levels to tackle research projects with the guidance of faculty members. It began in the early 1990s, when students and faculty at Valpo used a grant from NASA to design an instrument that reduced the number of amplifiers needed while retaining information from the X-ray portion of the spectrum.
Research Opportunities from the Get-Go
Each year, majors in computer science — from incoming freshmen to rising seniors — are invited to submit a letter of application to join the student research program, an opportunity to develop independence and leadership skills.
Students participating in the research program are assigned to teams on the basis of their interests, talents, and to some degree their personalities. Usually, the team consists of one or two first-year students and a single junior or senior who serves as a mentor. Research teams are generally assembled to work on projects proposed by students who have approached faculty members for support and assistance.
Developing Skills Over Time
While students are expected to contribute to the research effort, their primary role is to learn about the research process. In particular, they are not being called on to lead a research effort, but they are “interning” in the process. The letter specifies that they will be asked, and expected, to take leadership roles if they continue to work on research projects after their first year.
The research teams typically stay together for a period of one year, although it is possible for some teams to continue working on a project for longer periods. In the latter case, new students are introduced to the project as older students leave the team. Students are expected to commit themselves for two semesters of work on a given project. An active student could earn a total of eight credits for their research efforts over four years, but few are able to maintain this active program in computer science alone.
Selected Undergraduate Research Reports
- Circle the Cat: A Modern Adaptation and Analysis of a Classic Mathematical Game, by Timothy Olson, Kirk Baly, Owen Prough, and Alex Youngman (James Caristi, Advisor), 2010.
- R and Its Applications, by Traci Blonquist and Robert Thompson, 2010
- k-Equitable Labeling of Graphs by Deborah Beals and Robert Thompson (Zsuzsanna Szaniszló, Advisor), 2009.
Summer Research Opportunities for Valpo Students
The Valpo mathematics and statistics department encourages its students to take advantage of opportunities to conduct research during the summer months. Faculty advisors can be invaluable in helping students locate research projects that match their interests, as well as writing recommendations and offering advice on application strategies.
Celebration of Undergraduate Scholarship
Valpo computer science majors present their research findings in a variety of venues, including student and professional conferences at the regional and national levels. They are also regular participants in Valpo’s Celebration of Undergraduate Scholarship, held annually in the spring.