October 19, 2022
UNC Computer Science, in partnership with Intel, hosted its first Research Experience for Undergraduate Students (REU) from June – July 2022. Led by the efforts of Associate Professor Cynthia Sturton, the REU provided opportunities for three undergraduate students to explore research in computer science and gain industry mentorship.
The program was centered on providing research experience and support for rising juniors from historically excluded identities. The students were each connected with a UNC CS faculty member, research experience and mentorship within their respective labs. Alongside mentorship from the faculty member, the students also were connected with current graduate students who were able to share more about their academic journey and decision to pursue a doctorate. Participants attended weekly lunch-and-learn sessions, which included guest lectures from UNC CS faculty members spanning the broad spectrum of computer science disciplines and workshops from the UNC CS Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Coordinator covering topics of self-advocacy and allyship in computer science.
Intel provided connections to industry mentors, researchers and developers. Participants enjoyed making meaningful connections between the academic setting and industry – exploring ways research experience and a doctoral degree could propel their career forward.
Outside of the classroom, the REU program sought to build connections with the campus and community here in Chapel Hill. Participants enjoyed exploring Chapel Hill and the surrounding areas – taking advantage of North Carolina’s many treasures, the extracurricular activities ranged from a trip to Wrightsville Beach to exploring the Carolina Basketball Museum, here on campus, and attending a Durham Bulls minor league baseball game.
At the end of the 8 weeks, students were asked to present about their experience, including a summary of their research project, reflections on what they learned, as well as how the experience has impacted their desire to pursue a doctoral degree in computer science.
On the future of the program, Sturton shares, “Our goal is to develop a research program that provides students with the experience they need to pursue graduate school, while creating a more inclusive and equitable learning environment that is supportive of students and the identities they hold.”
These opportunities are filled with incredible moments of learning and reflection. Sturton and other faculty, look forward to hosting more students, providing additional opportunities for undergraduate research in computer science, and are committed to broadening diversity within the computer science field.