Pair of summer programs keep Computer Science Department busy
A pair of summer programs kept the University of Missouri Computer Science Department plenty busy throughout what most would consider a slow time on a university campus.
The department debuted its Big Data Analytics Summer Program in July and also hosted a National Science Foundation-funded Research Experience for Undergraduates program.
The Big Data program lasted from July 7 through July 25 and drew 14 participants of varied backgrounds. Yi Shang, professor and director of graduate studies in the Computer Science Department at MU and main instructor for both programs, said the program included participants from various nations including China, Denmark, Finland and Hong Kong. It additionally branched out to interested participants from beyond computer science — including those with statistics and journalism backgrounds.
Kan Xu, a graduate statistics student at MU, said his interest in the program came from a desire for a greater understanding of how massive data sets that he potentially could use in his work are compiled.
“We have a lot of interdisciplinary connections between statistics and computer science,” Xu said. “Actually, I think it’s a very good experience to join the Big Data program and learn what’s going on for the future of data analytics.”
The program consisted of a three-hour lecture session in the morning and a three-hour lab session in the afternoon, where students worked on projects to improve their computing and programming skills. Most of the work centered around developing knowledge of and a comfort use level with MapReduce, a program designed to aid with processing and generating Big Data-sized data sets, and other programs that aid MapReduce in that process.
Zhaoyu Li, a graduate computer science student and teaching assistant for the program, said he was impressed with students’ positive attitudes toward learning material that some of them may not have been previously exposed to.
“I think they are very eager to learn, very keen to learn,” Li said. “After they did some labs, I think they have some insights into what Big Data is.”
The NSF-funded REU program, meanwhile, brought together mostly juniors and seniors in computer science from across the U.S. Over the course of 10 participants had access to the type of undergraduate research projects not readily available at every institution.
“There is a huge demand for computer scientists and software engineers, but there is a big gap,” Shang said. “We are not training enough computer science students to meet the need.”
Shang added that it’s a trend in computer science to graduate, often with an undergraduate degree, and immediately begin working in the industry. This leaves a lack of researchers in the field. The chance to get a taste of the research component and improve those skills was what enticed computer science students Juweek Adolphe from the University of Georgia and Ressi Miranda of Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts to attend the program.
“The description of the program was software-defined networking, and I would say that’s one of my major weaknesses. … It seems like it was a skill that someone in my major should have excessive knowledge in,” Adolphe said.
“I was really interested in learning more about research,” Miranda said. “I haven’t had much prior experience, so I was hoping to attend this program to learn more about it.”
The students’ projects focused on consumer networking technology, such as Adolphe and Miranda’s work on creating a classifier program to help identify the sentiment of comments by users of social media. The students were divided into five groups and produced a poster and final report at the program’s end.
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