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Computer Science Students Win Awards for Research
March 2, 2010
Two Georgetown seniors have been named Outstanding Undergraduate Researchers by the national Computing Research Association (CRA). Paul Caravelli (C’10) was designated a Finalist for his work with associate professor of computer science Lisa Singh, and Stephen Bach (C’10) was awarded Honorable Mention for research he pursued with associate professor of computer science Mark Maloof.
Both students agree that hands-on research has enhanced the strong computer science education they have received at Georgetown. “I wanted a challenge outside the classroom that was very self-directed,” says Bach.
Bach, a computer science and math double major, has been working with Maloof since his freshman year on problems of concept drift, wherein a computer’s prediction model becomes inapplicable to a situation because of unforeseen changes in circumstance. In December 2008 Bach presented a paper on this work, authored with Maloof, at an international conference on data mining held in Pisa, Italy. The conference only inspired Bach to take new approaches in his research, and now this project comprises his senior thesis.
Maloof says of Bach, “He’s really given me a few new and different ways of looking at a problem that I've been working on for the past fifteen years.”
Similarly, Caravelli, a computer science major with minors in math and theology, has invested multiple years in a research topic that is now the basis of his thesis. Particularly interested in human-computer interaction, Caravelli has worked on a computer platform for representing data visually to the user. He has created new ways of clustering data and representing relationships, which have already proven useful in two projects using very different biological data: protein pathways and dolphin behaviors. Caravelli, too, presented a paper on his work at an international information visualization conference, held last summer in Barcelona, Spain.
Though computer science is one of the smaller departments in the College, this has proven to be an advantage. “I’ve had a lot of opportunity that I wouldn’t have had elsewhere,” Caravelli explains. Bach cites one-on-one mentorship and the opportunity to contribute to the field as unique advantages of Georgetown’s computer science program. Maloof notes that professors in Georgetown’s computer science department are willing to collaborate with undergraduates on research—a scenario that may not be feasible in larger programs.
Bach reveals that the pride he felt in his CRA award grew upon seeing that the list of other winners represented many large research universities known for sciences. “To see those names and then two Georgetown students was an honor, but I was also very proud because I think Georgetown, particularly Georgetown computer science, does a very good job with undergraduates,” he says.
In fact, both students initially chose to attend Georgetown because the liberal arts curriculum made it possible to pursue other interests in and outside of the classroom. Bach has been very involved in theater, particularly the technical side, while Caravelli has been a member of the Knights of Columbus and Catholic Student Association. Though none of their research was eligible for academic credit, Bach and Caravelli recognized that pursuing these projects—in addition to extracurricular interests and regular classes—would contribute to their larger goals as computer scientists.
“Doing research has allowed me to get more to the forefront of what’s going on now in a particular area of computer science and figure out what sub-area of computer science I really like,” Caravelli says.
Both students are now applying to graduate school to continue their studies in computer science. That they have each been nationally recognized by the CRA for their undergraduate research is an honor that kicks off the beginning of their professional careers.
—Kara Burritt
Photos from top: Stephen Bach, Paul Caravelli. Student photos by Claire Callagy and Charlie Nutting. Keyboard image courtesy of lizzardo under Creative Commons.
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