Explore CS Research year-long effort concludes with poster session

Designed to engage students in research, this year’s program has included workshops, panel sessions, and – of course – research!

Numerous undergraduate students at the University of Michigan have gotten a taste of what it means to pursue research in computer science this year under a program called “Explore CS Research.” Headed up by Rada Mihalcea, the Janice M. Jenkins Professor of Computer Science and Engineering, Explore CS Research is a series of events that are intended to engage students, including those not typically represented, in an appreciation for CS research as an endeavor and to help them as they launch their research careers.

This year, Mihalcea co-organized the program with CSE PhD student Andrew Lee and CSE MS student Aylin Gunal, who, according to Mihalcea, “really did a lot of the heavy lifting to make sure the program ran smoothly throughout the year, and who put together experiences including workshops and panels to help expose the  participating students to the various facets of the research process.” The program also benefited from the assistance of Rachel Germaine, CSE Project Coordinator for CS-RENEW. 

Explore CS Research includes student research mentoring and events throughout the year. Mentors this year included faculty members from Computer Science and Engineering, the School of Information, and the School of Music, Theatre & Dance: Nikola Banovic, Nikhil Bansal, Greg Bodwin, Ceren Budak, Anil Camci, Paul Grubbs, Wei Hu, Manos Kapritsos, Sindhu Kutty, Maggie Makar, Max New, George Tzimpragos, and Xu Wang. Also mentoring were PhD students affiliated with CSE, School of Information, and Robotics: Alia Gilbert, Andrew Lee, Joe Peper, and Shwetha Rajaram.

The program is known for motivating and preparing students. “I have to say that some of the best undergraduate students that I have had the pleasure of working with at U-M came through this program,” said Prof. Nikola Banovic.

The first Explore CS Research event this year was a workshop on Jan. 17th, just prior to the engineering career fair, designed to help prepare students for the event. At the workshop, the organizers reviewed topics including preparing resumes, practicing mock elevator pitches, and what to expect for follow-up interviews. 

Two panel discussions were also held over the course of the Winter term.

The first, on Feb. 16th, was on the subject of things to consider when thinking about applying for graduate school, including what to expect from graduate school, who it might be a good fit for, and the actual  application process for grad school. Panelists for this session included Profs. Nikola Banovic and Manos Kapritsos, postdoctoral researcher Oana Ignat, PhD student Alia Gilbert, and Masters student Namho Koh.

The second panel, held on April 10th, was on the topic of women in computing. This session highlighted women researchers in industry and academia who discussed potential research career paths, as well as what it means to be a woman or other underrepresented minority in the field of computer science. The panelists included Emily Dinan (DeepMind, formerly Meta AI), Yang Yang (Aptiv), and Elizabeth Salesky (PhD student, Johns Hopkins University).

The final Explore CS Research event was a poster presentation, which took place on April 10th in Tishman Hall of the Bob and Betty Beyster Building. At this event, undergrad student researchers were able to present on the work they performed over the course of the year. Of the poster session, co-organizer Andrew Lee said, “Considering that most, if not all of the research areas that our students embarked on were entirely new fields to them, I was thoroughly impressed by the progress they were able to demonstrate. I was also delighted to hear that many students will be continuing their work with their mentors throughout the upcoming semesters, including my own mentee.”

Regarding the experience of participating in Explore CS Research, undergraduate CS student Xiaoyan Bai said, “Participating in the ECSR program has definitely helped me to develop research skills and get to know more about research areas in computer science. My project experience in NLP has also helped me to decide that I want to work and do more research in this field in the future. Also, I am glad that I can know so many excellent peers and have such a supportive mentor to guide me through this. Overall, I really enjoyed this wonderful experience and I’d recommend it to anyone interested in learning more about CS research!”