What are you researching this summer?

Summer is always fun at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with music on the Terrace, strolls on Picnic Point, and other warm-weather diversions. But it’s also a time to focus on research that will improve people’s lives around the world.

This year, UW-Madison awarded $2,000 research scholarships to 35 students taking Summer Term courses. The scholarships are offered in conjunction with the Wisconsin Institute for Science Education and Community Engagement, or WISCIENCE, which promotes science education at UW-Madison and K-12 schools.

What kinds of breakthroughs can we expect from the scholarship winners? Here’s what eight students are researching during Summer Term.


Robots help kids read

My research in the Computer Sciences Department is to develop a robot that teaches elementary school kids to read and interacts with them by asking them questions throughout the reading process. Some of my programming duties are to let the robots recommend certain books based on the kids’ interests and to have some basic interaction with the kids. I am really excited about the project since it is going to help so many kids explore the unlimited knowledge that books could offer.

Jack Yang, enrolled in Computer Science 577: Introduction to Algorithms, Communication Arts 272: Introduction to Interpersonal Communication, and Biology 260: Entering Research Part 1

Morgan Hill

Safe surgeries in rural communities

I was granted a research scholarship in the division of Pediatric Surgery at UW Health and will be working on two research projects. The first is a continuation of assessing the surgical outcomes of pediatric patients based on their frequency of calls to the Access Center with Dr. Jonathan Kohler. By decoding the calls and figuring out which problems are at the highest volume, we’ll be able to develop better medical education and post-operative for families and physicians to ensure the safest surgeries in rural communities. The second research project will be working in a regenerative biology lab that tests different therapies to help children with gastrointestinal complications.

Morgan Hill, enrolled in Biology 260: Entering Research Part 1, Chemistry 344: Organic Chemistry Lab, and Integrated Science 699: Independent Study

Yingshi Zhang

The uses of confusion

I have been working as an undergraduate research assistant with a computer science graduate student on his “confusion detection” task. It aims to use facial expressions to detect users’ confusion. I think this research is valuable in both a technological realm and everyday life because it builds a bridge that connects computer user interface with human emotion. By using this application, companies will be able to identify user breakdowns more easily, and therefore be able to design better user-friendly interfaces.

Yingshi Zhang, English 201: Intermediate Composition, Computer Science 540: Introduction to Artificial Intelligence, and Biology 260: Entering Research Part 1

Steven Kurina

Hope for breast cancer patients

I have been able to shadow the principal investigator of my lab at the Carbone Cancer Center, Dr. Ruth O’Regan. She is an amazing breast cancer physician, and it has been a very eye-opening experience seeing what it’s like for patients going through breast cancer treatment. Some of the drugs can really improve the quality of life for the patients, but for triple negative breast cancer (TNBC), the treatment can be very harsh and often ineffective. Seeing and hearing what it’s like for these patients really motivates me to do the research I do in O’Regan Lab, searching for a better and more effective therapeutic approach to treat TNBC.

Steven Kurina, enrolled in General Business 310: Fundamentals of Accounting and Finance for Non-Business Majors and Biology 261: Entering Research Part 2

Victoria L. Johnson

The brain and well-being

With the Center for Healthy Minds, I will be studying the effects of early childhood experiences on development of the brain and overall well-being. This will be done through parental questionnaires, MRI scans of infants, and behavioral visits through the first two years of life. Our hope is to better understand development of the brain and emotion regulation through connections between biology and everyday life experiences.

Victoria L. Johnson, enrolled in Botany 460: General Ecology, History 201: The Historian’s Craft, and Biology 261: Entering Research Part 2

Nabil Husni

Treatment for autism

My research with the Department of Mathematics and the Waisman Center will help psychologists provide suitable treatment for patients based on the types of autism they have. I’ll help identify variables that may cause autism and use them to classify the types of autism that exist based on survey data.

Nabil Husni, enrolled in Math 421: Theory of Single Variable Calculus, Computer Sciences 301: Introduction to Data Programming, Biology 261: Entering Research Part 2

Ingie Osman

Improving trauma outcomes

I’ll be working with the Trauma Education and Assessment Methodology research program at University Hospital, researching gender differences in communication within trauma teams. Trauma is the leading cause of death in patients younger than 44, and approximately 10 percent of these deaths are due to preventable errors. Errors of nontechnical skill, particularly communication, predominate over errors of technical skill; understanding the factors that impact team communication is critical to the improvement of trauma outcomes.

Ingie Osman, enrolled in Human Development and Family Studies 363: Development—Adolescence through Old Age and Biology 261: Entering Research Part 2

Devin Johnson

A clearer picture on Russian law

This summer I’ll be assisting a professor in researching the Russian law system. We’ll look at cases involving common issues throughout life that are taken to court and see how they’re handled. We will also look at the social aspects of being a lawyer in Russia by monitoring news and social media on the subject. I’ll attempt to create a computer program that will track certain keywords we might find interesting in cases and in the news. I hope this research will be helpful in providing a clearer picture of how the average person experiences the Russian law system.

Devin Johnson, enrolled in Math 222: Calculus and Analytical Geometry II, Geography 170: Our Digital Globe: An Overview of GIScience and Its Technology, and Biology 260: Entering Research Part 1

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