SMART Spotlight – Victoria N. Miller

by Victoria N. Miller
Undergraduate Researcher
Mathematical Decision Sciences / Computer Science, class of 2018

Victoria N. Miller is a sharp student, and like a lot of sharp students she wanted to learn about research in a meaningful, direct way and create something important to her. Then she was invited to take part in the Science and Math Achievement and Resourcefulness Track. “I had no prior knowledge of research before starting SMART,” she said. “All I knew was that I was interested in computer science and wanted to learn and make something applicable to real life situations.”

Acclimatizing to research was no problem for Victoria, though. Her efforts paid off quickly after she dove into her work. “During my time throughout the SMART program, I learned an unbelievable amount,” she said.

“Not only had I learned three more coding languages, but I learned how to diagnose problems and how to search to find the answers I needed. On top of this, I was introduced to the Maker Space, learned how to read and validate scholarly pieces, and networked with many graduate students who continued their education with research.”

Undergraduates at universities everywhere may feel disconnected from their fields if they’re focused simply on learning the boundaries and the foundations of their chosen majors. As a research student, Victoria forged something new, bridging the gap between theory and practice. “I ended up with a Chrome Extension that allows physically disabled users to use Facebook,” she noted. Her connections with research directors also helped her make valuable contacts. “Because of my amazing research mentor, Gary Bishop, I was also able to get in touch with a woman in Australia who is well versed with accessibility technologies.”

Victoria describes her time as an undergraduate researcher in glowing terms. By allowing her to engage with the practical concerns of research and software creation, Victoria learned what research really meant, and what it could mean for her. “Being in SMART gave me a deeper appreciation for the work that goes into research, and also gave me a lot of experience with presenting, which is always a useful skill to have.”

She gained more than just some ink on her resume through the research program. “SMART also gave me a great network of friends who I learned so much from and even still talk to today.


Science and Math Achievement and Resourcefulness Track Program Symposium

2015 SMART symposium

2015 SMART symposium

On July 17, 2015, the SMART Program hosted a research symposium highlighting the work of SMART undergraduate researchers. This program is supported by the Office for Undergraduate Research, and the NSF-funded North Carolina Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation, (NC-LSAMP) Phase IV. Dr. Laura Miller is the PI for the NC-LSAMP Grant. You can read more about the program here.

In his opening comments, program director Dr. Gidi Shemer praised the students and encouraged them to think of their summer research as just the first step in their journey. Research, Dr. Shemer observed, is an excellent way to develop critical thinking skills. He noted the power of witnessing the transformation of the students as they learned to think like scientists and matured into scholar-scientists. The students reported that their projects pushed them to step outside of their comfort zones; many were initially surprised at the high expectations of their labs, PIs, and co-mentors. They were, in fact, expected to do real research! Dr. Shemer announced that plans are underway to build in more interaction between the SMART and SMART-Transfer cohorts for next summer’s participants.

Nicholas Larsen presents his project

Nicholas Larsen presents his project

In two poster sessions in the lobby of the Genome Science Building, program participants discussed their summer research projects. There was an impressively diverse range of projects from many academic disciplines, including Computer Science, Biology, Chemistry, Nutrition and more. Students discussed using network analysis of bill co-sponsorship to determine relationships between US Senators, the efficacy of the flu vaccine in obese subjects, the connection between head impact and reaction time in high school football players, and more.

2015 SMART participants

2015 SMART participants

This event was an impressive example of summer undergraduate research at Carolina. Thanks to the PIs and co-mentors who welcomed our students into their labs and supported their interest in scientific research, and to all who attended the symposium.

SMART and SMART-Transfer Research Presentations

Each summer the Office for Undergraduate Research offers the Science and Math Achievement and Resourcefulness Track (SMART) and SMART-Transfer program. This program is conducted in partnership with North Carolina A & T University, the lead campus in the NSF-funded North Carolina Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation, (NC-LSAMP) Phase IV. Dr. Laura Miller is the PI for the NC-LSAMP Grant and Dr. Gidi Shemer is the SMART Programs Director.

SMART 2015 participant Dana Elhertani gives a chalk talkThe students selected to participate in the program are matched to a laboratory based on their interests; they spend nine weeks during the summer doing 30 hours of research per week under the mentorship of a lab member and the principal investigator of the lab. Students also attend weekly meetings with their peers and the program director where they discuss scientific papers, present chalk talks, and gain scientific writing skills.

SMART 2015 students studyOn Friday, July 17, at 12:00 p.m. in the Genome Science Building lobby, there will be a research symposium where the SMART and SMART-Transfer students will present their summer research projects. Dr. Shemer noted that a wide range of STEM fields were involved in this program; projects included: “A computer-science approach to design an easily accessible keyboard for the disabled,” “Comparing water treatment protocols to determine which provides the best (almost) germ-free water that we should drink,” and “How to use Nanodoplets to fragment chromatin and to improve personalized cancer screening.”

Feel free to join us at the research symposium, and keep an eye out for these up-and-coming scientists.