NSF-funded grant to provide students with experience in scalable computer systems and algorithms

Your rideshare app says your driver will show up in 10 minutes. No, make that 20 minutes. There's a detour along her route and traffic is backing up.

While you wait, you upload some photos to Facebook, and the service recognizes your friends and suggests names for you to tag.

Still waiting, you surf over to Amazon and buy that slow cooker that's been sitting in your cart. How about a recipe book and some storage containers with that?

Machine learning, where computers acquire the ability to learn and make decisions, helps us in countless ways as we go about our daily activities -- and computer scientists are needed to help orchestrate its incredible potential.

The Intelligent and Scalable Systems Research Experiences for Undergraduates at Lehigh University is intended to provide an inspirational summer research experience for students. The program is funded by the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program.

The 10-week research experience will delve into fundamental topics in both machine learning and scalable computer systems, such as new algorithms for machine learning, new approaches to privacy preservation and new techniques for increasing the performance of parallel programs. The experience will also support application-focused research, with a special emphasis on creating solutions to pressing societal problems.

The team is particularly looking to have strong participation by women and underrepresented minorities, though all students are encouraged to apply. "We look forward to welcoming 30 budding researchers over the next three summers to Building C on our Mountaintop campus," said Brian Davison, associate professor in Lehigh University's computer science and engineering department, who heads the program.

Building C is the new home of the computer science and engineering department. The recently renovated space is part of Lehigh's Mountaintop Initiative, a transformative, interdisciplinary learning experience giving students freedom, facilities and faculty mentors to pursue creative and innovative answers to any number of challenges.

"The most exciting part of this REU is the way it brings together hard-core systems programming and high-impact machine learning," said Michael Spear, associate professor in the computer science and engineering department who co-heads the program with Davison. "The faculty in our department have such diverse talents in these areas, and this REU will be an opportunity for us to collaborate, both with each other and with the undergraduate participants, to have a big research impact."

Through seminars and faculty-supervised collaborative projects, students will learn about the research process, hone their software development skills, improve their comfort with technical communication, become knowledgeable about graduate school and its application process and ultimately develop greater confidence in their ability to succeed in STEM careers.

See the Intelligent and Scalable Systems - an NSF-Sponsored REU Site for more details on Lehigh University's summer research experience. The 2018 program runs 10 weeks, from May 29 to Aug. 3. Stipends, housing and travel reimbursements are available. Review of applications began Feb. 26, with official invitations to admitted students sent later this month.

-Story by Mary Anne Lynch '16G