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Dare to Discover Campaign Showcases Three CS and CS&E Students

Collage of 3 CS and CS&E students showcased on 2021 Dare to Discover campaign

The Dare to Discover campaign showcases researchers, scholars, and creators from across the University of Iowa. The campaign is sponsored by the Office of the Vice President for Research.

This year's campaign featuring 52 incredible undergrad and graduate student researchers who have continued to pursue their research and scholarly projects despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The below student researchers pursue Computer Science, Computer Science & Engineering degrees; often in concert with others across campus.

Geoff Collins, Undergraduate student, Spanish, Computer Science, and Biochemistry

Deciphers second language acquisition

• Hometown: Ankeny, Iowa
• Faculty mentor/advisor: Dr. Becky Gonzalez
• What is your degree program and expected graduate date? Spanish, Computer Science, and Biochemistry. Expected Graduation Date: Spring 2021.
• Please describe your research: My research focuses on understanding where adverbs can be placed in a Spanish sentence and what linguistic factors influence their placement, as well as how second language learners of Spanish acquire the features that influence adverb placement and sentence structure more broadly.
• In simple terms, why does this research matter? Adverbs are one of the most versatile parts of speech in regards to their possible placement in sentences. Unfortunately, they have not been extensively studied in Spanish leading to difficulties in characterizing their placement theoretically and teaching adverb placement in Spanish language classrooms. By further understanding adverbs, we can develop better teaching methods to improve second language learner fluency.
• How soon after starting at the University of Iowa were you able to participate in research? I was able to participate in research my first semester at the University of Iowa.
• How has being involved in research made you more successful at the University of Iowa? Research has allowed me to do a deep dive into certain areas I am interested in while preparing me for a career after university. It has developed my abilities to communicate, think critically, and connect various concepts together. Participation in research has provided me with a much more holistic education.
• What are your career goals and/or plans after graduation? I am currently waiting to hear back from the Fulbright U.S. Student Program about being an English Teaching Assistant in Spain.

Kawther Rouabhi, Undergraduate student, Computer Science and Engineering

Uses A.I. to explore space

• Hometown: Iowa City, Iowa
• Faculty mentors/advisors: Dr. Ananya Sen Gupta, Assistant Professor, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering; and Dr. Allison Jaynes, Assistant Professor, Department of Physics and Astronomy
• What is your degree program and expected graduate date? Computer Science and Engineering (Bachelors of Science and Engineering); Expected Graduation: May 2022
• Please describe your research: I program algorithms to analyze data collected on NASA missions, in deep space and right here on Earth. One of my projects involves creating an algorithm to automatically detect and analyze solar wind ion trails in the Martian ionosphere. Another project of mine involves creating an artificial intelligence program that detects pulsating aurora borealis events, a specific type of  Northern lights.
• In simple terms, why does this research matter? My research on Martian solar wind ion trails may lead to discoveries on how the Sun interacts with planets that do not have a strong magnetic field and how solar wind can affect a planet’s atmosphere and climate. In my second project, creating a database of pulsating aurora events that our algorithm generates will provide a valuable resource for scientists studying the pulsation phenomenon and may lead to discoveries on the Sun’s interactions with Earth’s upper atmosphere and magnetic field.
• How soon after starting at the University of Iowa were you able to participate in research? I approached Dr. Ananya Sen Gupta to join her state-of-the-art signal processing research lab in the Spring of my freshman year at Iowa. During the Summer of 2020, I also began working with Dr. Allison Jaynes, a leading expert on auroras and other space weather events. I’m forever grateful for the unwavering mentorship and support of both of my research mentors.
• How has being involved in research made you more successful at the University of Iowa? From presenting alongside Dr. Sen Gupta at the 100th American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in San Francisco to being one of two Americans building a sounding rocket with 22 international students at Andøya Space Center in Norway, I could have never imagined how far investing in my research career would take me. These eye-opening experiences forced me to jump out of my comfort zone, which made them such valuable learning opportunities. Meeting scientists and engineers from around the world with similar aspirations to my own made me ecstatic to be a part of such a vibrant community.
• What are your career goals and/or plans after graduation? Following my graduation from the University of Iowa, I hope to extend my computer engineering education as a doctoral student, where I will continue to conduct innovative AI research. Wherever my career takes me, from analyzing the melting of ice caps to volcanic activity to black hole formation, I will strive to make discoveries that drive humanity forward. As a woman and minority in the tech community, I have a mission to show underrepresented individuals that they are capable of being great problem solvers.

Zhuoning Yuan, Ph.D. student, Computer Science

Improves diagnoses with machine learning

• Hometown: Henan, China
• Faculty mentor/advisor: Tianbao Yang, Associate Professor
• What is your degree program and expected graduation date? Ph.D. in Computer Science, May 2022
• Please describe your research: My research focuses on developing robust machine learning solutions to diagnose diseases from imbalanced medical images, such as melanoma and pneumonia.
• In simple terms, why does this research matter? Medical data suffers from a very imbalance problem due to the expensive cost to acquire and label the positive samples. Therefore, developing robust disease diagnosis solutions using limited data is very essential.
• How soon after starting at the University of Iowa were you able to participate in research? I started research in my first year at University of Iowa.
• How has being involved in research made you more successful at the University of Iowa? The knowledge and skills I acquired from many research projects – problem solving, critical thinking, programming, collaborating with others, etc. – enhance my expertise in machine learning and will benefit my further career developments.
• What are your career goals and/or plans after graduation? My career goal is to use what I learn in machine learning to develop practical and robust tools to facilitate people’s lives.
• Does your research have connections to or implications for COVID-19? Please explain.   I develop a robust framework to train deep learning models to detect chest and lung diseases (e.g., pneumonia and lung lesion) from X-ray images, which can be directly applied to training models to detect COVID-19 from chest X-ray images. [See PhD Student Z. Yuan and Prof. Yang Team 1st Place on CheXpert ML Competition for more]

2018 Dare to Discover students