As part of her undergraduate research, Melissa is devising ways for robots to take better images as they explore inaccessible areas.
Faculty Supervisor: Garrett Warnell, visiting researcher at the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory
Briefly describe your research project.
I am working to build a model that allows robots to take the best images possible when they enter an area that is inaccessible to humans. I am working with a researcher in the Computer Science department who is visiting from the US Army Labs.
Describe the tasks you engage in as part of your work.
I use the Amazon Mechanical Turk interface to develop experiments to be launched. I also write Python scripts to organize the image and question data that we use in our experiments. I study machine learning methods to implement when developing the preferred-image model. Finally, I meet with members of the research project to collaborate and sync our efforts.
Describe what you thought college might be like before you came to UT. Did you consider research when thinking about college?
While I thought about research, I did not seriously consider it as an option for my time at UT. It was only when I learned about the research work of friends at UT and other schools that I realized how fun and rewarding research could be.
How did you get involved with your research project?
When I became interested in research, I reached out to several professors over emails and meetings. One professor connected me with my current research mentor, who has helped me craft and develop the research project.
Do you see your project connecting with your plans for your future?
I am exploring my interest in programming, robotics, and predictive modeling, which are career areas that I would like to learn more about. I am also developing technical skills (programming, running experiments, understanding technical material) and soft skills (crafting questions and project goals, communicating with team members) that will lead to my ability to be a more effective student and team member in the future.
What is the most interesting or surprising thing you’ve gotten to do for this project?
I have gotten to develop experiments that connect with individuals all over the United States to generate data.
What advice would you give to a student who was thinking about research?
Don’t be afraid to be persistent when reaching out to professors and research groups for opportunities. Also, ask friends and mentors questions to continue growth and learning.
Research Week showcases the exciting work of undergraduates across campus and highlights opportunities for students interested in getting involved. Co-sponsored by the Senate of College Councils and the School of Undergraduate Studies, Research Week takes place in the middle of April each year. Take a look at the online schedule of events to find out more about Research Week events.