Cornell Bowers College of Computing and Information Science
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Cornell Bowers CIS expands summer research program to all majors

March 3, 2023

By Patricia Waldron

The Computer Science Undergraduate Research Program (CSURP), a popular initiative that allows computer science majors to gain valuable summer research experience, will now be known as the Bowers Undergraduate Research Experience (BURE) and will be open to all majors within the Cornell Ann S. Bowers College of Computing and Information Science.

BURE provides paid summer research opportunities that expose undergraduates to cutting-edge research with Cornell faculty, allowing them to develop new skills and gain insights into careers in research. Adrian Sampson, associate professor of computer science, founded the program in 2021. Now in its third year, faculty lead Justin Hsu, assistant professor of computer science, is overseeing BURE's expansion along with the Cornell Bowers CIS Research Team. 

Applications for summer 2023 are due Monday, March 27. 

“We are excited to expand this program so more students in Bowers CIS can engage in research with our world-class faculty," said Kavita Bala, dean of Cornell Bowers CIS.. “Open-ended problem solving in these research projects will allow students to explore their interests and deepen their skills."

In addition to broadening student skills, summer research experiences can help undergraduates decide whether to pursue graduate school, and have the potential to grow into long-term projects that yield papers and conference presentations. 

Ruyu Yan ’23, a computer science major working with Abe Davis, assistant professor of computer science, developed a way to find and re-photograph the same locations over and over again. Her summer research turned into a long-term project that culminated with the release of a time-lapse photography app. This technology now helps scientists monitor their field sites.

Last summer, Amelia Kovacs '24, a computer science major, worked with Sarah Dean, assistant professor of computer science, to investigate how changes to recommendation systems, such as the algorithms that curate content on YouTube or TikTok, have the potential to change human behavior. Kovacs used a framework developed by Dean called RecLab, which simulates how users interact with recommended content. She expanded the behavioral models underlying the artificial users and simulated user boredom and polarization. Kovacs has continued to work with Dean throughout the school year, building a news article recommender and investigating how harmful content is represented in recommendation systems.

"I am minoring in cognitive science, so being able to investigate behavioral phenomena in relation to CS was very exciting to me," Kovacs said. "I am considering getting a Ph.D. after graduating. The experience definitely shone a light on fields of CS and possible career paths I did not previously know much about and am now highly interested in pursuing."

Computer science major Pai Li '23 has been working with Sampson for the last year on Calyx, a compiler infrastructure that allows researchers to rapidly translate and apply new languages for programming hardware. Advances in the performance of computer CPUs have stagnated, and through Calyx, they hope to accelerate innovation in hardware design and ultimately speed up computer performance. 

“We are trying to solve this problem by developing a new kind of programming language that essentially allows you to program on hardware but with the thinking of a software engineer,” Li said. 

For her part in Calyx, Li is developing the capability for parts of a program running at the same time, called threads, to synchronize and talk to each other at the right times – ensuring that one thread doesn't get ahead of the other. Currently, she's exploring ways to make this process more efficient.    

"This really showed me the fun of doing research," said Li, who now plans to apply to Ph.D. programs.

Students who may be interested in BURE are invited to attend the spring Research Night, an event organized each semester by the Association of Computer Science Undergraduates (ACSU) to display the wide variety of research opportunities open to Cornell Bowers CIS undergraduates. The event features a panel of student researchers who will answer questions from the audience, followed by a poster session where students can meet doctoral students and discuss potential collaborations. The event will be held 5-7 p.m. Monday, March 13 in Gates 01.  

"I think a lot of undergraduates think that research is something that only genius people who have taken a lot of advanced classes can do, but this is not the case," said Hsu, BURE’s faculty lead. 

"The best way to get into research is just to start doing it."

Patricia Waldron is a writer for the Cornell Ann S. Bowers College of Computing and Information Science.