Carnegie Mellon University
August 07, 2023

PSC Interns Program Tools for Research

By Kirsten Heuring

Jocelyn Duffy
  • Associate Dean for Communications, MCS
  • 412-268-9982

Ian Alcox and Eduardo J. Figueroa Santiago started the summer as roommates and student researchers at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC), a joint research center of Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh. After a road trip to stargaze, they ended it as friends.

"I'm into astronomy, and there's really good dark sky viewing sites in West Virginia and Pennsylvania," said Alcox, a rising junior at Middle Tennessee University. "There was 3 and a half hours total driving, and we got to the highest peak in West Virginia. It was cloudy out, so we weren't able to see anything, but it was a cool journey."

Alcox and Figueroa were two of nine PSC interns this summer. Figueroa, a rising senior in computer science at the University of Puerto Rico Rio Piedras, said he was really interested in working at Carnegie Mellon.

"Carnegie Mellon is one of the universities I have at the top of my list, not only for the internship but also as a start to my future," Figueroa said.

Figueroa helped sort and organize a database for the Brain Image Library (BIL), which contains information on different species' brains with the goal of finding connections that make the human brain work. He created a dashboard that sorts BIL data by species, institution, authors and contribution, making it easier for researchers to find data.

Figueroa conducts computer science research at his home institution and said this project was very different.

"It wasn't something I had done before," Figueroa said. "I learned a lot from it."

Alcox worked on a MuST (Multiple Scattering Theory) program. The open-source program allows users to input the expected properties of a material. From there, MuST takes the information of the material's structure and composition to make predictions of its properties.

Alcox, a recipient of the Mellon College of Science's Summer Scholars Program Research Experience for Undergraduates grant, helped test and evaluate the code for the tools to ensure the results were in-line with researchers' expectations. He said some of the concepts were difficult to understand at first, but he enjoyed investigating how the program and learning how semiconductors work.

"I had a great time being able to talk to my mentor, interns and other professors working on the project and being able to slowly piece together how this piece of code and machinery works," Alcox said. "Being able to figure all this stuff out and learning more about it has really been interesting for me."

Yuqing Lin, a rising sophomore majoring in physics and robotics with a minor in mathematical sciences, also worked on MuST computational tools.

"It's freely available to any researchers in solid-state physics or related fields," said Lin, who was excited to combine her interests in physics and coding. It's rewarding to know something I've worked on cannot only be for myself but also other researchers."

Lin assisted with the MuST calculations, making sure that they accurately fit the parameters of the program. She examined how a superconducting material's critical temperature changes with based, based on the Debye temperature and pressure calculations conducted. Lin said that interning at the PSC helped solidify her interest in pursuing research in the future.

"As I was exposed to communicating in a scientific environment, I feel like I became more confident and started to enjoy the research setting," Lin said. "I would definitely consider continuing to explore this field in my academic career."

— Related Content —