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NCSA partners with Uni High, offering research opportunities for local high school students

Many students don’t find themselves conducting their own research and undertaking professional development activities until they’re well into their college careers. Not so for students at the University of Illinois Laboratory High School. Thanks to support from the Frankel Fund for Learning Innovation, 16 students from Uni High had the opportunity to engage in research collaborations at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) this semester as part of the inaugural Frankel Scholars Program.

Students in this program were given the chance to conduct research in a variety of areas, including computational science, genetics, web development, virtual reality and more. Some were even able to run simulations on Blue Waters, one of the world’s most powerful supercomputers located here on the University of Illinois campus. The semester-long program culminated on Monday, December 10 as the scholars presented lightning talks on their final projects.

Though the workload may have seemed daunting to a high school student, these capable scholars were well-supported throughout the semester. Each student was paired with an NCSA mentor who helped guide their project, and presented with the opportunity to work with teams of undergraduates in the NCSA SPIN(Students Pushing INnovation) internship program. They were also assisted by members of Uni High’s teaching staff and NCSA’s Education Coordinator, Olena Kindratenko.

According to Kindratenko, “This program provided an opportunity to explore student academic and research interests beyond the high school curriculum. Students acquired new knowledge, learned new programming languages, and some of them used advanced tools and techniques, such as Blue Waters and deep learning, for their research. This internship also provided an opportunity to work on interdisciplinary, ‘real-life’ and socially impactful projects.”

In addition to their research, scholars also had the opportunity to engage in several professional development activities, such as participating in weekly meetings with their mentors, attending SPIN lightning talks, and working closely with SPIN students, something which the Frankel Scholars found especially valuable.

“It was really nice to work with a team of undergraduates and graduates, people that are older than you. Plus, it introduces you to more people in this community here at the university,” said sophomore Noah Rebei, who researched using virtual reality and ray tracing to study computational materials science. “It was really nice to work on the things I love, since I got to choose what I worked on.”

Emi Brown, also a sophomore on the virtual reality project, said “It was cool to see all the things that everyone can do and also learn new things. I really like programming, so this was a really good experience.”

“This group of students is very hardworking, and I have been impressed with the quality of their work,” Kindratenko adds. “It’s their intellectual curiosity which motivates them to engage in these projects.”

Though the end of the semester is rapidly approaching, the collaboration won’t stop there. Most students will continue working with their mentors on their projects into the spring semester.

The full list of Fall 2018 Frankel Scholars, along with their mentors, may be found below.

  • Elijah Song & Lara Marinov (Mentors: Colleen Bushell Senior Research Scientist, NCSA and Lisa Gatzke Senior Software Engineer, NCSA)
  • Dina Hashash (Mentor: Andre Schleife, Assistant Professor Department of Materials Science and Engineering)
  • Emi Brown & Noah Rebei (Mentor: Andre Schleife, Assistant Professor Department of Materials Science and Engineering)
  • Navid Tajkhorshid (Mentor: Eliu Huerta, Research Scientist, NCSA)
  • Adam Rebei (Mentor: Eliu Huerta)
  • Nishant Sheikh (Mentor: Volodymyr Kindratenko Senior Research Scientist, NCSA Adjunct Associate Professor, ECE and Research Associate Professor, CS)
  • Aniket Gargya (Mentor: Volodymyr Kindratenko)
  • Edward Kong & David Sun (Mentor: Volodymyr Kindratenko)
  • Robert Nagel (Mentor: Bertram Ludaescher Professor and Director, Center for Informatics Research in Science and Scholarship)
  • Akash Pardeshi (Mentor: Bertram Ludaescher)
  • Angelynn Huang & Sophia Torrellas (Mentor: Liudmila Sergeevna Mainzer Technical Program Manager Industrial Application Domains, NCSA Genomics)
  • Elisha (Yeonsoo) Ham (Mentors: Matthew Turk Assistant Professor, Department of Information Sciences and Madicken Munk Postdoctoral Research Associate)

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