Carnegie Mellon University

Dietrich College Research Training Program

The Dietrich College freshman-sophomore research training program is open to second semester freshmen and sophomores with a 3.0 QPA or by petition. It is designed to give eligible and interested students some real research experience working on a faculty project or lab in ways that might stimulate and nurture the students' interest in doing more research.

The projects take the form of a one-semester/9-unit research apprenticeship with a faculty sponsor. Faculty members are expected to meet with the student regularly and provide a grade. The benefit to faculty is some potentially quite useful research assistance, where projects can be broken down into manageable chunks (e.g., literature reviews).

Spring 2018 Course Descriptions

Section A, Professor Peter Freeman

Exploring Astrostatistics: Analyzing Astronomical Data with Cutting-Edge Methods of Statistics and Machine Learning
As recently as 25 years ago, astronomy was a data-starved discipline, with catalogs that consisted of details about hundreds of objects. Because of the success of projects such as the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, that number has grown from hundreds to hundreds of millions. To make sense of these data, one needs to utilize advanced methods of statistics and machine learning. In this research training course, students will learn how to utilize advanced methods of classification and regression and will apply them to given astronomical datasets. All analyses will be done using the statistical package R. No prior knowledge of astronomy (or of R or of basic data analysis algorithms) is required.

Maximum of 3 students.

Section A, Professor Lisa Tetrault 

Women’s Rights and Gender-Based Violence
Professor Tetrault has two projects underway. The first is on women’s rights in the nineteenth century (the 1800s). This will involve working with nineteenth-century digitized newspapers.

The second is on gender-based violence, in the US and abroad. This will involve working with a variety of issues and sources. Professor Tetrault will help you learn the research process, then set you free in the archives, and together, we’ll advance each project.

Open to more than one student.

 

Section A, Professor Robert Cavalier

Congress-Citizen Virtuous Loop: A Model for a More Informed Democracy
As a continuation and expansion of our Program’s interest in cultivating a more informed and engaged citizenry, we have worked with GovTrack to embed enhanced voter-input features into its real-time district level database of actual votes and bills. In the Spring of 2018 we will research ways in which such voter feedback could utilize representative samples (such as the Panel of voters in Congressman Doyle’s 14th District -- maintained by the University of Pittsburgh’s Survey Research Center). Beta tests of this tool will be run and students participating in the faculty research will gain hands on experience accessing and analyzing data generated by voter feedback. Finally, we hope to see Congressmen use “Deliberative Community Forums” as redesigned Town Hall meetings where voters engaged in GovTrack could join the Congressman in informed, well-structured conversations about votes taken and votes to be taken.

Interested students: Send an email to Professor Cavalier and include information about your interests in this project and why you'd be a good fit.

Open to 1-2 students.

Section A, Professor Seth Wiener

Using Eye-tracking to Understand Spoken Language Processing
There is a moment in speech when a listener can disambiguate the word 'candle' from 'candy.' One way to capture and understand this moment is by analyzing a listener's eye movements as he/she views photos of candles and candy. Eye movements are closely aligned to speech and therefore provide insight into language processing. In this research project, students will take part in the development of an eye-tracking study that explores spoken word recognition in native and non-native listeners.

Students will gain experience preparing the experiment, testing participants, collecting data, and learning to analyze and visualize the data.

Interested students: Send an email to Professor Wiener and include information about your interests in this project and why you'd be a good fit.

Open to 1-2 students.

Section B, Professor Felipe Gomez 

Encoding Hispanic Comics
This project involves research of Spanish-language comics. The course will teach Comic Book Markup Language (CBML, a TEI-based XML vocabulary) for encoding and analyzing the structural, textual, visual, and bibliographic complexity of digitized comic books and related documents. Student researchers will assist in: a) editing, marking up, and structuring digitized Spanish-language comics; b) reading and subjecting these texts to interpretation, making inferences, and embarking in theoretical explorations of issues according to given criteria. Long-term results of this project entail possible inclusion of encoded materials in the Latin American Comics Archive, collaboration with national and international students and researchers, and perhaps a published work (for which student participants would be acknowledged as contributors).

Interested students: Send an email to Professor Gomez and include information about your interests in this project.

Open to one or two students with at least intermediate level reading skills in Spanish.

Section C, Professor Kenya C. Dworkin

Cyber-Activism and Independent, Civil Society in Contemporary Cuba: Digital Platforms and Social Media as Tools for Change
As part of an ongoing project on contemporary, independent, civil society in Cuba and the tools it is employing to promote its agendas and projects both inside and outside Cuba, this project will involve guided research and analysis of print & digital blogs, news sources, webpages, digital platforms published in and/or about contemporary Cuba, by Cubans and non-Cubans. We will work to: (1) follow established sources (web pages, Twitter accounts, Facebook posts and their bloggers/Tweeters and owners/users), (2) discover and analyze news ones, and (3) assess their effectiveness regarding reach and language of materials.

Interested students: Send an email to Professor Dworkin and include information about your interests in this project and why you'd be a good fit.

Open to one or two students. Prerequisites: (1) Students must have at least advanced level reading skills in Spanish and be fully proficient in English. (2) Students must also be willing to sign up for and follow Twitter and Facebook accounts, and blogs belonging to and/or that host the work of Cuban Cyber-Activists.

Section A, Professor Vicki Helgeson 

The Psychology of Stereotypes
Students will be introduced to the field of racial stereotyping, focusing on how people respond think about success and failure for black and white people. Students will read articles on these topics and have hands-on experience conducting research on these topics.

Open up to 5 students.

Section J, Professor Laurie Heller 

Auditory Perception
This course provides students with research experience in the area of auditory perception. Students will assist with research projects in the Auditory Perception Laboratory, obtaining hands-on experience with various aspects of conducting research. Students will gain experience in study design, participant recruitment & scheduling, working as an experimenter, data collection, and data management/analysis including acoustic analysis and possibly sound recording and sound synthesis. For example, students may conduct an analysis of the acoustics of sounds which have similar perceptual qualities, or they may run an experiment in which listeners judge the causes of sounds, or listeners may do tasks seemingly unrelated to the sounds they hear and show evidence of unconscious priming when sounds and words (or gestures) are related.

Students with a special interest in sound synthesis and/or matlab programming should bring attention to that interest.

Interested students: Send an email to Professor Heller and include information about your interests in this project.

Open to more than one student.

Section K, Professor Erik D. Thiessen 

The Role of Learning in Infants' Language Acquisition
In order to master their language, infants need to learn an extraordinary amount. They must discover what sounds occur in their language, how those sounds relate to meaning, the identity and meaning of words in their language, and how to string those words together into sentences. Infants are exposed to a rich linguistic environment, but little is known about how infants are able to take advantage of the richness of this environment. In the Infant Language and Learning Lab, we try to understand how infants are able to learn from their environment. In particular, we explore how infants respond to the distribution of probabilistic information across levels of linguistic organization like sound and meaning. To do so, we use a variety of experimental methods, such as habituation, in studies with infants between the ages of 6 and 24 months.

Our experiments present infants with novel languages, and examine what infants are able to learn from them. Specifically, upcoming projects will examine how infants learn that different sounds (like /d/ and /t/) indicate different meanings, how infants discover the rules governing word order in phrases, and how infants learn about the rhythmic structure of their native language.

Interested students: Send an email to Professor Thiessen and include information about your interests in this project.

Open to more than one student.

Section M, Professor Brooke Feeney 

Social Psychology
This course provides students with research experience in the area of social psychology. Students will assist with research projects in the Relationships Laboratory, thereby obtaining actual, hands-on experience with various aspects of large research projects on the topic of interpersonal relations. As a member of the Relationships Lab, students will gain experience in study design, participant recruitment & scheduling, working as an experimenter, data collection, and data management/analysis. For example, students may Research Training Course Offerings (xx-198) Spring 2018 5 work with newlyweds and dating couples in an experimenter role, code videos of couple interactions, assist with data entry and data analysis, assist with preparation of research reports, and assist with library work.

Interested students: Send an email to Professor Feeney and include information about your interests in this project.

Open to more than one student.

Section C, Prof. Paul Fischbeck

Check back soon for more information!