March 16, 2023
By Chris Walkowiak
An eager crowd packed Gates Hall for the Association of Computer Science Undergraduates’ (ACSU) Research Night on Monday, March 13, showcasing the latest work from students across the Cornell Ann S. Bowers College of Computing and Information Science.
Held every semester, Research Night exists to encourage undergraduate students to pursue research opportunities. Historically, organizers of the event have targeted computer science students, but now welcome students from each of Cornell Bowers CIS’s three departments: computer science, information science, and statistics and data science.
Through research, students can work at the “frontier of knowledge,” said Kavita Bala, dean of Cornell Bowers CIS, in her opening remarks. “The kind of research we’re doing in Cornell – in computing, in CS, and more broadly in the college – is really upending traditional, centuries-old institutions,” Bala noted, citing the fields of finance, transportation, and healthcare as examples.
Following opening remarks, a panel of undergraduate researchers – Emmett Breen ’24, Benny Rubin ’25, and Yolanda Wang ’25 – answered audience questions and discussed how they got involved with research, the advantages and disadvantages of research as compared to an industry internship, and the experience they gained beyond technical skills.
Justin Hsu, assistant professor of computer science, moderated the Q&A session, which included questions submitted by attendees via an online portal.
Panelists encouraged attendees to pursue research opportunities and noted the barriers for entry are fewer than students may imagine.
“In a research lab, there are different kinds of jobs,” said Wang, who studies computer vision and generative models, a type of AI model that creates new text, images, or videos based on training data. “You don’t need to delve into the deepest, most theoretical thing from the very beginning.”
Both Wang and Breen reached out to professors after their first-year fall semesters and were told they needed to take more courses. However, options existed for both of them: Wang did human-computer interaction research over the summer, while Breen – who studies systems and networking – was assigned a project by the professor he continues to do research with to help him prepare and gain more skills.
“People who don’t rush through the curriculum [aren’t] at a disadvantage at all, as long as you make an effort to find whatever area of computer science you’re most interested in,” Breen said.
After the panel, attendees engaged with graduate researchers who presented their work during a poster session. The researchers recognized the opportunity at ACSU Research Night to increase the profile of their work.
Presenting during the poster session, Wentao Guo ’22, M.Eng ’23, was excited specifically by the chance to bring “attention to my work,” which involves deep learning models.
Joy Ming, a doctoral student in the field of information science, presented human-computer interaction research that seeks to support healthcare workers who work in the homes of older adults and people with disabilities.
“A lot of the work that they’re doing is really undervalued or invisible, and so my project’s goal is to make that a little more visible using data collection and data analysis,” Ming said.
Interested students can take part in research during the academic year, either for course credit or pay. In addition, the Bowers Undergraduate Research Experience (BURE) is accepting applications until March 27. Formerly known as the Computer Science Undergraduate Research Program (CSURP), the 10-week summer program provides students guidance from faculty and Ph.D. students, funding of up to $5,000, a series of talks on technical and career projects, and social experiences with other program participants.
Chris Walkowiak ‘26 is a student writer for the Cornell Ann S. Bowers College of Computing and Information Science’s communications team.