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Two Boyer School CIS Students First to Complete NSF Research Experiences

Public Relations
Posted: Monday Nov 21, 2011

Two students at the Herbert W. Boyer School of Natural Sciences, Mathematics, and Computing are the first Computing and Information Science majors to complete National Science Foundation-funded Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) last summer.

Joseph Anderson, a senior double major in Computing and Information Science and Mathematics, participated in TRACK – Training and Research in Advanced Computer Knowledge – at the University of New Orleans, and Shauna Hetrick, a junior Computing and Information Science major, pursued research with JHAVÉ, an algorithm visualization software tool used in teaching computer science, at the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh. Both were awarded fully-funded, ten-week programs.

“The research at UNO was focused on signal processing and image processing,” Mr. Anderson explained. “Our particular project was fish tracking and identification using underwater video. It was kind of neat. My assignment was segmenting and actually finding fish in the pictures. I learned a lot about small group coordination and it improved my technical writing. I also learned a lot more math and statistics skills to solve real world problems.”

Mr. Anderson had previously served as a programming intern in work conducted on campus with Ethix Systems. “I learned about how to work and improve systems they designed to coordinate tasks more efficiently,” he said. “I was involved in the actual planning, from database to modeling the interface. It was a great experience.” He also works as a desktop analyst in the College’s Information Services Department. “My role is primarily product research and documentation, managing the systems used to control all of the computers.”

He is also beginning work on his senior research project which is an application to interface with the Support Suite software which the help desk will use to manage the student hardware that goes in and out so they can track which students had what software in the past.”

He expects to graduate in May and pursue graduate school studies toward a Ph.D. in mathematics or computer science – or a combination of the two – in Pittsburgh, Boston or Indiana. I am very interested in the juncture of philosophy, math and computer science.”

A graduate of Derry Area High School, Mr. Anderson is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Anderson of Derry and a member of St. Martin’s Parish in New Derry. In his leisure time, he participates in Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society, has played trumpet in the Westmoreland Youth Symphony, takes organ lessons, and is starting a computer science colloquium club – popular at the nation’s top schools – where students can get together to talk about math and computers, physics and chemistry.

Speaking about her summer research, Ms. Hetrick related, “Our program tried to make it like a mini-grad program where we get the information at the beginning and then they cut us loose to work on our projects. Each group got a list of topics and we chose one and developed algorithm visualization for that topic. We also had to do a textbook page online describing our topic so that a student could go and do the visualization. We also did a research poster and paper on how we developed our software.”

“Our topic was object composition which was a little different because it is not necessarily an algorithm but rather a concept that many people have trouble with so we are trying to visualize that to help beginner computer science students,” she continued. “I really enjoyed the research aspect of it and may pursue graduate study in that area but I haven’t yet decided.”

She previously did an internship at Concurrent Technologies Corporation. “We did a research project there as well as a research paper and presentation,” she added. “I am just trying to get as much experience as I can. The problem solving that is involved is enjoyable for me.”

In addition to her CIS major and minors in mathematics and Spanish, she still finds time to pitch for the Lady Bearcat varsity softball team, chair the committee for Colleges Against Cancer, tutor for the CIS Department, and participate in the computer science club. “I am in Alpha Lambda Delta and participate in their service projects and like to volunteer when Campus Ministry is making pillows for children in the hospital. I always do that.”

What has she enjoyed most about her educational pursuit at SVC? “I just like that faculty challenge me but aren’t overwhelming to where I feel like I can’t do it,” she responded. “It makes me excited to keep trying. I like the entire faculty. They are all very accessible and open, excited to help students learn.”

Ms. Hetrick was honored to learn that the poster she and her study partner created last summer was accepted at a research conference sponsored by CCSC (Consortium for Computing Sciences in Colleges) Midwest for Computer Science Education. “We were invited to attend the conference in Huntingdon, Indiana, September 23-25 and were awarded first place for our poster. It was a great experience.”

Daughter of Robert and Kelly Hetrick of Johnstown, she graduated from Westmont Hilltop High School and belongs to Saint Patrick’s R.C. Church.

Br. David Carlson, O.S.B., chairperson of the Computing and Information Science Department in the Boyer School, said that Mr. Anderson and Ms. Hetrick are both outstanding students. “For both of them to obtain a high-quality summer research experience in the same summer is a significant accomplishment,” he said. “They have already made many positive contributions to the Department, to the College, and to the wider community. I am sure we will hear more good things about them in the future.”


Photo: Joe Anderson (left) and Shauna Hetrick (center) with Br. David Carlson, O.S.B., in the Atrium of the Sis and Herman Dupré Science Pavilion.