Welcome Undergraduates to CompSustNet!

On June 1 two Vanderbilt University rising seniors in computer science, Zimei Bian and Selina Chen, started working with me on CompSustNet. They are supported for the summer by NSF award Collaborative Research: CompSustNet: Expanding the Horizons of Computational Sustainability.

I am so happy to have Zimei and Selina working with me, on behalf of CompSustNet. Some of this post is dedicated to Zimei’s and Selina’s activities, but their tasks can be adapted to any institution within ComSustNet. I conclude this post with a reminder that Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) awards can expand undergraduate participation in CompSustNet still further.

VU undergraduate assistants participate in each of three classes of activities, but students vary in the extent that they concentrate in each area, depending on their interests and strengths, and the needs of CompSustNet.

  1. Each student assistant becomes conversant with the research being conducted in CompSustNet,  by reading articles and participating in CompSustNet conference calls and local meetings. Students with particular interests in communication of science and technology, to include students majoring in Communication of Science and Technology, an undergraduate major at Vanderbilt, dive deeper into selected areas of the network, blog about CompSustNet activities, and prepare overviews of CompSustNet research for publication or broad dissemination through other means (e.g., a YouTube video module).
  2. Each student helps translate selected research problems and results of CompSustNet into educational exercises appropriate for courses across the computer science curriculum (e.g., for inclusion in CompSust wikibooks). Students particularly interested in CS education can concentrate in this area, with additional goals of preparing papers to CS-education focused conferences (e.g., SIGCSE) or broad dissemination through other suitable means (e.g., contributions to Nifty Assignments).
  3. Each student participates in a CompSust research project with me and/or other faculty in CompSustNet or Vanderbilt, with expectations for research result dissemination (e.g., co-authorship on publications) to depend on project and mentor.

Look for blog posts by Zimei and Selina here, as well as references to their other work on CompSustNet. And if you are a CompSustNet participant, don’t be surprised if you receive a query from them, or introduce themselves at the CompSust-16 conference in July!

More generally, CompSustNet will employ systematic strategies to engage undergraduate assistants. We will do this, in part, through REU supplemental awards on selected NSF collaborative awards that directly support CompSustNet. These REU supplements could support undergraduate participation on research projects in CompSustNet, or with proper planning and justification, even suitable projects outside of CompSustNet as currently construed. The appropriate use of REU supplements can be a mechanism for both strengthening the bonds within the network, as well as for extending the network. It is also worth considering whether REU sites might be a distinct way of growing the computational sustainability community still further!

Douglas H. Fisher is CompSustNet’s Director of Outreach, Education, Diversity, and Synthesis. The opinions expressed herein are Doug’s and not necessarily those of Cornell University. Contact Doug at douglas.h.fisher@vanderbilt.edu.