The National Institute for Computational Sciences

Life After CSURE

Former Participants in Summer Research Program Seize New Academic Opportunities

By Scott Gibson

The Computational Science for Undergraduate Research Experiences (CSURE) program from the Joint Institute for Computational Sciences has opened new academic doors for 2013 CSURE students Ciara Thompson, a rising senior at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and Nyalia Lui, a rising sophomore at Morehouse College.

While in the 2013 CSURE program, which was held at the University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Lui was introduced to the field of bioinformatics by Dr. Bhanu Rekepalli of CSURE and the National Institute for Computational Sciences. Since then Lui has had the opportunity to conduct research in DNA sequencing with Dr. Chung Ng in the bioinformatics lab at Morehouse and has decided to declare a second minor in bioinformatics.

"Dr. Rekepalli is a great mentor, and I appreciate the hard work he put into guiding me and my fellow CSURE students," Lui said. "From the beginning of the CSURE program, I knew nothing about the bioinformatics field, yet he continued to work with me and set a foundation within me. The experience with him and his graduate students expanded my mind to see the benefit that computer science is to the domain sciences such as biology and chemistry, and, conversely, the benefit of those domain sciences to the computer science field."

And other good things are happening for Lui. He has been accepted to the Stanford Summer Research program, which will entail his being in the lab 9 weeks with Stanford faculty whose research interests are compatible with Lui's.

"From this program, I hope to gain a research mentor like Dr. Rekepalli whom I can ask questions, as this would drastically smooth my journey through interdisciplinary research," Lui said. "Also, Stanford is one of the universities I plan on applying to for graduate school, so it would be nice to get a feel for the student life there."

Lui credits CSURE with providing him academic direction and clarity. "I would like to thank the CSURE program for enlightening me to the path of interdisciplinary studies," he said. "As a freshman, I knew I wanted to go into the research field, but I had no idea what research in computer science was like. The structured guidance of Dr. Kwai Wong and Dr. Christian Halloy helped narrow my interests to interdisciplinary research."

For Thompson, her involvement in computational fluid dynamics (CFD) at Embry-Riddle fostered her interest in CSURE, and since completing the program, she has returned to the school to finish her studies in aerospace engineering and her research activities in CFD. CSURE gave Thompson a jump on completing her coursework credits, because she was able to take the program as a credit class, and it led to her being invited to the prestigious Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing 2013 in Minneapolis. The conference is designed to bring the research career interests of women in computing to the forefront, according to the website. Thompson said that upon completion of her undergraduate studies, she plans to focus on CFD in graduate school.

"My mentor, Dr. Kwai Wong, was truly encouraging and advised me to apply for a scholarship to present a poster at [the Grace Hopper Conference], which won the competition," Thompson said. "The opportunity to present my poster was amazing, as was the experience of attending the conference. I learned so much through my involvement in the conference about computer science and the engineering field in general. CSURE provided me with a plethora of knowledge that increased my understanding of computing power and its relevance to computational sciences, and I wouldn't have had this amazing experience and the follow-through of attending Grace Hopper if it wasn't for my mentor, Kwai Wong."

Based on their comments, students Lui and Thompson apparently have found CSURE to have been instrumental in advancing their academic endeavors.

The 2014 CSURE program will run from June 2 to August 8. It will be composed of 10 undergraduate students from American schools (U.S. citizens or permanent residents only), as well as four undergraduate students from Hong Kong.

Article posting date: 26 March 2014

About CSURE: The Computational Science for Undergraduate Research Experiences 10-week summer program directs a group of undergraduate students in exploring emerging computational science models and techniques proven to work in a number of data- and compute-intensive applications using the supercomputers at the National Institute for Computational Sciences (NICS). The principal investigator for the CSURE program is Greg Peterson. More about CSURE is available here.

About JICS: The Joint Institute for Computational Sciences was established by the University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) to advance scientific discovery and state-of-the-art engineering, and to further knowledge of computational modeling and simulation. JICS realizes its vision by taking full advantage of petascale-and-beyond computers housed at ORNL and by educating a new generation of scientists and engineers well versed in the application of computational modeling and simulation for solving the most-challenging scientific and engineering problems.

About NICS: The National Institute for Computational Sciences operates the University of Tennessee supercomputing center, funded in part by the National Science Foundation. NICS is a major partner in NSF's Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment, known as XSEDE.