What sort of research are you doing? I've been involved in two research projects. The first is an extension of a term project I did for an elective, and involves analyzing the dynamics of simulated roadway traffic to determine an optimal lane-changing strategy.
I've also been working with Marie desJardins and the MAPLE Lab on the Playing to Program (P2P) project, which aims to create and intelligent computerized tutoring system.
How long have you been doing this research? What inspired you to become involved/ how did you become involved? As I mentioned, the traffic project stemmed from a term project that I did for Dr. desJardins' Spring 2011 class on complex systems and emergence. The inspiration for teh project was purely practical; I would often be stuck in traffic while driving home on the weekends and wanted to find out the best way to move through it.
I came on to the P2P project over the summer to add some extra eyes to the project. I was looking to get my hands dirty with some "real" research (i.e. not pertaining soley to my own needs) to figure out whether it's something I would want to do full-time.
Is this your first research project? P2P was my first large/serious-scale research project
Are you collaborating with any other students or faculty members? My traffic project was a mostly solitary effort. Dr. desJardins and a fellow classmate helped co-author my paper on the project.
P2P was a collaboration between several undergraduate students (who have all moved on, to my knowledge) and David Walser, a graduate student.
What is the best part of your research so far? I'm fascinated with the notion of making a novel contribution to the collective knowledge base, even if it isn't outright groundbreaking. So, there's that, and I get to work with some awesome people.
What is the biggest obstacle you have faced while doing research so far? I've worked on a few research projects so far, but am still searching for the topic that piques my interest enough to dive into it full-time. I guess you could consider that an obstacle.
What do you hope to achieve with this research? With my traffic project, the goal was to help reduce my commute times.
The goal of the P2P project is to create an intelligent tutoring system that can detect where a user needs improvement most and tailor itself to address the problem areas. Having a computer program capable of doing this stands to help more people in need of basic assistance than a single human tutor could.
In either case, I'm primarily hoping to gain experience with research so that I can make a more informed decision regarding pursuing post-graduate education.
Do you feel like this research is preparing you for post-college plans? Inasmuch as a portfolio of research would help me, yes. As far as the subject matter goes, I wouldn't say that my research now is of particular relevance to my future plans.
What are your plans after graduation? Right now, I plan on working for a few years and then pursuing graduate research. But, this is subject to change, as my plans tend to be.
*Joseph was interviewed in September 2011.