NSF-funded REU @ TCNJ: 2016-17

There are two openings for summer research students, with a research stipend of $4,000 per student for a period of 8 weeks in the summer. There is additional funding for summer housing and meals.

Complete the form here to apply – https://goo.gl/NtEtIF.

An Investigation into Data Integration, Reliability and Integrity

We have received REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) Supplemental funding to support two undergraduate research students as they continue to investigate research questions related to our TUES-funded project, Collaborating Across Boundaries to Engage Undergraduates in Computational Thinking (CABECT), NSF Award # 1141170.

Project Summary: The two students, Evan Melquist and Sean Anukwuem, are investigating the challenges of integrating data available in disparate formats from a variety of sources into data-dependent applications. Along with other students in the research group, they are also investigating the feasibility of leveraging the collective intelligence of large numbers of humans to improve the reliability and integrity of data, and the sustainability of such applications. The students will design a process and solution for data integration for two existing applications to demonstrate their findings.

Funding includes:

  • Academic Year Stipend: $4,320 for each student; September 5, 2016 to May 19, 2017 (32 weeks, not including breaks).
  • Summer Stipend: $4,000 for each student; June 5, 2016 to July 28, 2017.
  • Summer housing during the summer.
  • Fully funded travel to a conference.



CABECTPortal: Leveraging Social Computational Concepts to Enhance Project Dissemination and Sustainability

We received REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) Supplemental funding for 2014-15, to support two undergraduate research students as they investigated our hypothesis that contributions from a large number of motivated users who actively review and adapt site content will result in a self-sustaining research repository.

This REU is part of our TUES-funded project, Collaborating Across Boundaries to Engage Undergraduates in Computational Thinking (CABECT), NSF Award # 1141170, where we are developing a model for faculty and students to collaborate across diverse disciplines and with a community organization to develop computational solutions that address complex real-world problems.

The REU supplemental funding will support two Computer Science majors as they conduct further research into, and integrate concepts from, social computational systems into CABECTPortal. They will also design a user interaction study and investigate whether our hypothesis holds. The support includes:

  • Academic Year Stipend: $4,000 for each student; September 1, 2014 to May 8, 2015.
  • Summer Stipend: $4,000 for each student; June 1, 2015 to July 31, 2015.
  • Summer housing on the TCNJ campus as part of MUSE, and meals during the summer.
  • Fully funded travel to a conference to present a research poster or paper.

To Apply

Complete the Qualtrics application form found here: https://tcnj.qualtrics.com//SE/?SID=SV_bCni2YjNVRT1KoB (https://tcnj.qualtrics.com//SE/?SID=SV_bCni2YjNVRT1KoB). Enter cabect14 when prompted for the passcode.
Application Deadline: 5 p.m. August 27, 2014. 
Requested information includes name, major, year in school, computer science course completed, expected graduation date and overall GPA and in-major GPA (minimum 2.5 required for both). Grade information will be used only to confirm that a student has a 2.5 or higher GPA, not as a primary criterion for selection.

Applicants will also be asked:
1) why you are interested in this specific project;
2) how participation in the research project will contribute to your academic and career goals;
3) how your qualifications to contribute to the project as a collaborator; and
4) to list any related experience in the classroom, lab, or past research, internships, or competitions.

Students from underrepresented groups (e.g. women and minorities) are strongly encouraged to apply.

The students that best match the criteria in terms of appropriate courses taken, as well as interest in summer research and the project in particular, will be selected from the pool of applicants.

Background of the Project:

As one of the outcomes of the CABECT project we have been considering the challenges of effective dissemination of our results and artifacts, as well as sustaining the project beyond the funding period. Websites for sharing and searching for artifacts of successful NSF-funded projects quickly become unsustainable since they require significant human intervention to ensure that the data is up-to-date and reliable.

CABECTPortal was originally designed to showcase the CABECT project, to share our ideas, models, projects and resources. To address concerns about effective dissemination, we hypothesized that leveraging social computational concepts in a web-based collaborative framework can motivate potential adopters to become active participants in the dissemination and sustainability of a project. CABECTPortal is therefore designed to be a self-sustaining, collaborative environment that can track how content is being propagated. It soon became apparent that this approach could be generalized to host any collaboration between computer science and another discipline.

During Summer 2013 and the academic year 2013-2014, two undergraduate students, Joe Canero and Conor Kelton, researched how concepts from human computation and crowdsourcing can help build more vibrant communities around collaborative repositories and make them less time-consuming to maintain. They began development of CABECTPortal to implement some of their design ideas based on this research. The students presented a collaborative poster on their work at the ACM Student Research Competition at SIGCSE in March 2014, and placed in the top five.

The project builds upon research in an emerging area, social computational systems, conducted at institutions like Carnegie Mellon and UC Berkeley, to provide an innovative solution to the problem of project dissemination and sustainability beyond the funding period. We anticipate that demonstrated success can lead to wide usage by other collaborative projects. The immersive research experience during the academic year and summer will help prepare the participating students for graduate study, and their work can lead to a co-authored publication that will help them in their graduate school applications.

Description of research project work

We anticipate three phases of work for the students over the academic year 2014-15 and summer 2015.
(1) Phase One: Immersion in the problem. The students will review the literature to understand social computational systems, drawing heavily from the work done by Joe and Conor. The students will familiarize themselves with the source code for CABECTPortal, the needs and challenges of project dissemination and sustainability, and review the valuable feedback received during the poster presentation at SIGCSE. Student 1 will focus on the concepts and algorithms of collective intelligence, while the Student 2 will focus onthe concepts of human computer interaction and usability design.
(2) Phase Two: Implementation. Student 1 will design and implement the additional algorithms needed for further integrating collective intelligence and crowdsourcing concepts into the task routing, review and quality control functionalities. Student 2 will design and implement the usability study and social media strategy to facilitate dissemination, usage and testing of CABECTPortal. This student will also investigate the security of the site, and design and implement security measures as appropriate.
(3) Phase Three: Analysis and Continued Development. The students will analyze findings from the usability study and identify emergent issues. They will propose, design and implement solutions to address these issues.

What students will gain

Both students will develop and enhance existing skills in conducting in-depth literature reviews in specific research areas, analyzing findings, and applying them to solve problems in different contexts. They will also gain further experience in system design analysis, software design, implementation and testing, including usability and security testing. The modules and methodology the students will develop will be valuable contributions to the state-of-the-art in collaborative environments, leading to publications.


The selected students will enroll in CSC 498 (Mentored Research with Dr. Pulimood) for 0.5 units each in the fall and spring semesters (total of 1 course unit per student) to gain mentored research course credit.

The students will prepare for and participate in weekly meetings to share updates, discuss research findings and brainstorm ideas. Throughout the project period the students and faculty mentors will review publications related to social computational systems, collective intelligence, user interaction design, etc. There will be weekly meetings to review literature and work completed, set goals for the coming week, and brainstorm on how to address specific challenges or issues. The students will also maintain the research wiki, prepare a poster for presenting at a conference or within the department, and write a final paper, preferably for publication. During the summer we will additionally meet briefly every day for updates on progress, challenges, roadblocks, etc. We plan to visit a graduate school and companies working with social media. The frequent meetings and planned field trips will serve to broaden students’ understanding of the research experience, graduate school, and the professional workplace. During the summer the students will also participate in professional development and community building activities that are part of TCNJ’s Mentored Undergraduate Summer Experience (MUSE).