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Undergraduate Research Week 2020

UIowaCS & ICRU logos

April 20-24 is both Undergraduate Research Week and the Iowa Center for Research by Undergraduates' 1st E-SURF (Spring Undergraduate Research Festival).

We will be featuring Academic Year 2019-20 research in our department including:

  • Kerry Peterman (May '21; Arts|Informatics) co-authored "Play-Based Design: Giving 3- to 4-Year-Old Children a Voice in the Design Process", which was to be presented at CHI 2020 by Prof. Juan Pablo Hourcade and senior PhD candidate Kyle Diederich. CHI is the premier international conference of Human-Computer Interaction. Alumnae Liam Crawford ('19) and Samantha Klemm ('18) were the other UG co-authors for this paper.

"Working with Prof. Hourcade as an undergrad in research allowed me to participate in a study that analyzed interaction between young children and technology. While working alongside other graduate students, I enjoyed getting to experience the different environments. Either in the lab recording observations about behavior or creating responses for the voice agent during sessions, I gained skills from this unique research experience."

  • Anthony Pizzimenti (May '20|CS|Mathematics|LDA Certificate) was supervised by Professors Suely Oliveira and David Stewart on districting methods for creating congressional districts. "I started with the Large Data Analysis (LDA) certificate program back in the summer of 2016, where I participated in the Big Data Summer Camp at the UI. The summer after my second year, I was offered a Tisch Fellowship at Tufts, MIT, and Harvard to work with the Metric Geometry and Gerrymandering Group (MGGG) in Boston for eight weeks. During my time there, we explored the mathematics of (political) redistricting and developed quite a bit of new research; I also was part of the small team that developed GerryChain, a Monte-Carlo Markov Chain (MCMC) implementation which allows users to explore and collect data on the possible districting plans of a given geographical area. The MGGG presented its findings from the use of this software as an amicus curiae brief before the United States Supreme Court  in the summer of 2019. When I got back to the University for my third year, I pitched a number of project ideas to the members of the Numerical, Parallel, and Optimization Algorithms Group (led by Dr. Oliveira). One idea was given a state and some information about it, can we (deterministically) make a nice districting plan for the state?  We came up with a few robust theoretical results as well as a new method for creating districting plans. During the summer after my third year, I moved to Washington, DC for a research internship with FairVote, an advocacy organization dedicated to promoting ranked-choice voting (RCV). There, I authored two large projects: the Houston project, which explores the effects on the City Council of a racially-(im)balanced redistricting in Houston, Texas; and the RCV and Brexit project, which leveraged UK Parliamentary voting data to predict the outcome of a potential Brexit vote. Both of these projects (written up as papers) have been accepted for publication in political science journals."

     "I’m going to finish my fourth (and final) year at the University with and B.S. in mathematics, a B.S. in computer science, and the Large Data Analysis Certificate. I’ve also accepted a job as a political mapping analyst and researcher with the National Democratic Redistricting Committee in DC. I also feel quite well-prepared to take on graduate school in a year or two, especially given the mountain of work I’ve been able to do as an undergraduate researcher here at Iowa."

  • Piotr Smietana (May '21; CS|Math Minor|Honors) is working with Professor Rishab Nithyanand on analyzing how threat intelligence systems deal with the Tor network. "In his previous research, the Professor discovered that many IP addresses of Tor relays are often blacklisted by popular websites. This is because the Tor network is often exploited and used for malicious purposes because of its anonymity benefits. The easy solution for threat intelligence systems to deal with that is to use blacklists. Some blacklists are reactive while others are proactive. Reactive means that a relay was being involved in some abusive behavior that got reported to a blacklist, which resulted in a ban. Proactive means that Tor relays are being added to the blacklist proactively. In other words, they are being banned as soon as they show in the Tor consensus are as soon as a blacklist scans the Tor consensus. My goal is to develop a suite of techniques to correctly categorize blacklists by whether they proactively or reactively block Tor relays. We want to understand the behavior of threat intelligence systems and the impacts of their blacklists on Tor users. I'm planning to graduate in Spring 2021 with a major in Computer Science and a minor in Mathematics. I'm from Krakow, Poland and I'm also an honors student. I want to share with everyone that I'm enjoying my research a lot. I highly recommend visiting sparta.cs.uiowa.edu to learn more about our other projects or if someone is interested in joining SPARTA!"

Feel free to contact Matthieu with your Undergraduate Research or that of your students.

Check back later for update and/or see/share our twitter feed.


The University of Iowa Libraries has opened the undergraduate library research award to all students, whether they are participating in ICRU's Undergraduate Research Festivals or not. This is to encourage more students to apply for this award. The deadline is May 1st.