May 16, 2019
Undergraduates Showcase Research at Meeting of the Minds
By Ann Lyon Ritchie
Meeting of the Minds, hosted by the Undergraduate Research Office, highlighted the work of more than 700 students on May 8 in the Cohon University Center. Dietrich College students were among those giving poster sessions, interactive demonstrations and oral presentations.
Corporate Capstone Projects
Several student teams from the Department of Statistics & Data Science discussed their corporate capstone projects. CMU’s unique corporate partnerships deliver real-world results while providing students the chance to apply their skills under the guidance of faculty advisers.
“We were given data from shopping receipts and asked to predict the brands of the items that were sold,” Sara Jahanian said.
The NPD Group, a market research company, sponsored two teams to apply statistical analysis to receipt data from retailers. Jahanian was joined by teammates Ye Won Doe, Krishna Rao and Clay Yoo. Faculty members Peter Freeman, Christopher Peter Makris and Rebecca Nugent advised the students.
“This is a fantastic opportunity for students to tackle real-world problems that don’t have clear solutions,” Makris said.
The second team also analyzed receipt data but was tasked with predicting categories for the items sold. Cheyenne Ehman, Jake Parker, Adam Tucker and Yuchao Wu made up the team, which Freeman, Nugent and Ph.D. candidate Kayla Frisoli advised.
“This project was much more than a textbook project. The data set was real, and it was messy. It took all of us applying our skills to complete it successfully,” Tucker said.
The results from both projects will allow similar data from different stores to be collated and compared to deliver valuable business insights to The NPD Group and its clients.
“It’s nice to hear The NPD Group’s feedback about how this project has real company impact. With traditional coursework you don’t always see the downstream effects of your work, but with corporate capstone projects you get to see how the tools you learn in class are implemented in practice,” Frisoli said.
Seniors Clay Joo, Ye Won Doe and Sara Jahanian explain their Statistics & Data Science corporate capstone project with the NPD Group, a market research company, to Stephanie Wallach, assistant vice provost for undergraduate education. Krishna Rao, not pictured, also was part of the team.
Seniors Jake Parker, Adam Tucker and Cheyenne Ehman’s corporate capstone project with the NPD Group focused on analyzing store receipt data and predicting categories for items sold. Yuchao Wu, not pictured, also was part of the team.
Senior psychology major Prachi Mahableshwarkar displays her research, “Neural Representations and Categorization of Visual Input in the Brain,” in the technical poster session.
Sophomores Kevin Frey, a mechanical engineering major, and Christopher May, an information systems major, demonstrate the physics lesson of their interactive Matchbox car racetrack. College of Engineering students Allen Jiang and Jeremy Tinucci, not pictured, also were part of the team.
Individual Poster Presentations
Poster sessions at Meeting of the Minds were a platform for individuals to discuss papers and projects. Prachi Mahableshwarkar, a senior psychology major, presented her technical poster on “Neural Representations and Categorization of Visual Input in the Brain.”
“Humans recognize and categorizing visual stimuli fast but not much is understood about what parts of the brain are involved and their functions,” Mahableshwarkar said.
Tina Goparaju, a Bachelor of Humanities and Arts student with a major in ethics, history & public policy and art, created a technical poster on her research that reexamines how scientists define an epoch along the earth’s timeline, due to climate change and other societal impacts.
She was advised by M. Stephanie Murray, director and academic advisor of the BXA Intercollege Degree Programs, and Jacob Goessling, a Ph.D. candidate of literary and cultural studies in the English Department.
“The aspect of Tina's participation in Meeting of the Minds that has jumped out to me the most is how it has enabled her to take real ownership of both her ideas and her research process. I've been able to see Tina connect ideas she developed in my Interpretation and Argument class to work she has done recently in other classes. Questions she began thinking about years ago have continued to progress, and I hope will challenge her intellectually for years to come,” Goessling said.
Creative work at Meeting of the Minds included team projects from IDeATe, the Integrative Design, Arts, and Technology network at CMU.
“We were tasked in our course with designing an interactive project in the future,” Cassie Alsept, a psychology major.
Alsept’s team, which included Kristie Lord from the College of Engineering and Erin Fuller and Austin Garcia from the School of Architecture, conceptualize “Aura Pen” to explore the use of a writing instrument as a mental health monitor.
Also in IDeATe, Christopher May, an information systems major, worked with the College of Engineering students Kevin Frey, Allen Jiang and Jeremy Tinucci to design and prototype an educational toy for fourth graders. May devised the sensors and circuitry for the team’s Matchbox car racetrack that teaches lessons in physics.
Meeting of the Minds displays the breadth of CMU’s research and offers fresh perspectives and ideas year after year. To undergraduate students, participation delivers a sense of accomplishment and a glimpse of what their future work may hold.
Pictured above: Senior Tina Goparaju presented her project “Using Ecofeminism to Redefine Social Organization in an Ecologically Distinct Epoch.” Goparaju is a Bachelor of Humanities and Arts student with a major in ethics, history & public policy and art.