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CRA-WP Board Welcomes New Members Raja Kushalnagar and Jaime Moreno

CRA-WP has welcomed new members to its board of directors – Raja Kushalnagar, Gallaudet University, and Jaime Moreno, IBM.

Raja Kushalnagar
Raja Kushalnagar is the Director of the Information Technology program in the Department of Science, Technology and Mathematics at Gallaudet University in Washington, DC.

His research interests encompass the fields of accessible computing and accessibility/intellectual property law, with the goal of improving information access for people with sensory disabilities. In the accessible computing field, he investigates information and communication access disparities for people with sensory disabilities. For example, he investigates technology can aid communication or learning through speech-to-text (captions/subtitles) or sign language interpreters, for deaf, hard of hearing, low vision or blind people. In the legal field, he advocates for laws and policies for access and inclusion for people with sensory disabilities, such as automatic captions or audio description.

He has mentored 70 plus undergraduates and received over $4 million in grants and has published over 50 peer-reviewed publications.

Jaime Moreno
Dr. Jaime H. Moreno is Distinguished Researcher, Senior Manager, at the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center in New York. He joined IBM Research in 1992, where he has led various teams on microprocessor and high-performance system architecture, design and performance analysis projects, efforts addressing the full range of IBM processors and systems. His most recent completed project was participation in the development of Summit and Sierra, the two most powerful computers in the world deployed in 2018. He has published multiple papers and two books, including a textbook on digital systems translated to Portuguese and Chinese, holds many patents in processor architecture, has been recognized as Master Inventor at IBM Research. His current research interests address future hybrid cloud systems and supercomputers. Before joining IBM, Jaime was a faculty member at the University of Concepcion, Chile. He received his Ph.D. and M.S. degrees in Computer Science from the University of California Los Angeles, and a degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Concepcion, Chile.

Distributed Research Experience for Undergraduates: Catching up with DREU Alumna Olivia Figueira

When did you participate in DREU and what was your project about?
I participated in a DREU program in the summer of 2019 at the University of Washington in Seattle, WA. I worked with Dr. Jennifer Mankoff in her Make4All lab on a project aimed at finding the contribution of correlated stressors on mental health in college students.

How did DREU shape your research career?
DREU has shaped my research career in that it was my first official research experience and I really enjoyed it! I have had the goal of going to graduate school for a while, but I did not have any research experience off which I could base that goal. But after DREU, I feel even more excited and passionate to go to graduate school than ever before. It gave me a very unique view of the graduate school experience since I worked closely with a doctoral student in the lab, and I learned so much about conducting research at the graduate level. DREU allowed me to picture what graduate school could look like for me, and I am really excited about that prospect.

What advice would you have for DREU mentors and DREU student participants?
The best piece of advice I received during my DREU program was during a meet-and-greet lunch for undergraduate interns, graduate students, and visiting research interns in the computer science and engineering school that was held in my first week at UW. The graduate students were participating in a panel, and one of them, in response to the question “What do you wish you had known before you started your Ph.D.?”, said that they wished they knew that it was okay to not have all the answers and to ask questions, especially questions that they think are “dumb.” This really resonated with me as I felt somewhat unprepared having had no prior research experience, but I embraced that piece of advice and asked questions immediately when I had doubts, even if I felt like they were “dumb” questions, because clearly no one there is “dumb”! It really enhanced my experience since I was able to understand the project better and learn more from my mentor and the other students on my team. On the mentor side of things, I would advise them to tell their DREU students this advice! It helps the DREU student feel like they are in a safe environment and that learning (and making mistakes) is okay. This enhanced my DREU experience, and I hope other DREU students and mentors do the same!

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Distributed Research Experience for Undergraduates: Catching up with DREU Alumna Sarah Ita Levitan

When did you participate in DREU and what was your project about?
I participated in DREU in the summer of 2012, before my senior year of college.  I worked at the Columbia Speech Lab under the guidance of Dr. Julia Hirschberg. My project involved studying entrainment patterns in US Supreme Court oral arguments.  Entrainment is the phenomenon where people tend to become similar to their dialogue partner in conversation by adopting characteristics of their partner’s speech.  I worked on cleaning noisy Supreme Court audio recordings and measuring and analyzing entrainment on acoustic-prosodic features (such as pitch and loudness) between lawyers and justices.  We found that lawyers entrained more than justices, supporting the theory that the less dominant speaker is more likely to entrain to the more dominant speaker. 

How did DREU shape your research career?
My DREU experience had a major impact on my career path. Spending a summer immersed in research in a large university lab, surrounded by people working on exciting projects in natural language and speech processing, solidified my interest in getting a PhD in computer science and pursuing a research career.  I returned to the Speech Lab the following summer, and ultimately joined the Speech Lab at Columbia as a PhD student, with my DREU mentor as my PhD advisor.  I feel privileged to have had such a wise and dedicated advisor, whose enthusiasm for research is contagious, and whose commitment to helping her students is extraordinary. She is passionate about encouraging women in CS and continues to mentor DREU students during the summer. Under her guidance, I have mentored some excellent DREU students. 

What advice would you have for DREU mentors and DREU student participants?
The DREU program is more than an internship where a student completes a research project — it should be a mentoring relationship as well. For mentors, it is important to take the time to get to know your DREU student.  Meetings should not just be about the project details — ask your student about their plans for after graduation and offer  guidance and support.  For students, take advantage of this rare opportunity to be  mentored.  Communicate as much as possible with your mentor, and don’t be afraid to ask questions if you need help.  And enjoy the experience — it will fly by!

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