My research experience(s) at the UR began after my sophomore year, actually during sophomore year. I had heard that the faculty in the cs department frequently hired undergrads to help them conduct research, and I had nothing better to do during my summer, so I decided to try it. Now I didn't really know anyone, but I was enjoying my Natural Language class with James Allen and was doing relatively well, so I asked him if he had any opportunities. Sure enough, he did, and I've worked with him throughout my four (soon to be five) years in school.
The first summer I researched an automated semantic tagging system, mainly using probability and different statistical methods. I researched the best way to draw semantic knowledge quickly from a corpus. This turned into a Java application for psychologists to use.
So I suppose this first summer went better than I expected because I was asked back the following summer to work on a brand new system for the Center for Future Health's Smart Home. We created a medical advisor that patients could talk to (yes, verbally) and get questions answered. My main task that summer was to extract prescription drug knowledge from a government web database and code it into an easy to understand format that our system could parse. I was left with a couple weeks at the end of the summer and also created the system's 'visual interface'. Basically, I made a graphical pill guy that spun around and moves when he talks....kind of like the Microsoft Paperclip, Clippy. It was a small thing, but it ended up stealing the show since it was 'cute' and was the only thing you actually saw. The local news even picked it up.
Oh I also spent a semester researching microphone arrays as an independent study. Very interesting, I was trying to reduce ambient noise in the room. More here if you want: Microphone Arrays.
Anyway, now I'm doing the 3-2 program, my master's thesis will be with the professor I started with way back in sophomore year. I'll be working on dynamic speech recognizers. I don't think many other schools would have given me the opportunity to work on so much research as an undergrad. The summer after my senior year I landed a job doing language work for a research lab with Lockheed Martin. The work I'm doing is directly related to and the job I was offered is a direct result of this research. So my words for any new UR cs students...get involved, ask a professor, do some research.
Additionally, Nate was president of the Computer Science Undergraduate Council for 2001-2002 and won Honorable Mention in the Computing Research Association's Outstanding Undergraduate Award for 2002.
My advisor, James Allen
The Center for Future Health
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