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VR-REU 2022: New Research Experience Program to Broaden Participation in Computing

Ten students will be attending the VR-REU research program at City University of New York (CUNY), Hunter College from June 6 – July 29, 2022.

Aisha Frampton-Clerk
CUNY Queensborough Community College

Amelia Roth
Gustavus Adolphus College

Ari Riggins
Princeton University

Deborah Rudin
University of Minnesota Twin Cities

Diego Rivera
Iona College

Mustapha Bouchaqour
CUNY New York City College of Technology

Nairoby Pena
Cornell University

Olubusayo Oluwagbamila
Rutgers University New Brunswick

Talia Attar
Cornell University

Zhenchao Xia
Stony Brook University

New York, NY — June 3, 2022 — The VR-REU program is a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF) that enables undergraduate students to undertake multidisciplinary research projects in Immersive 3D Visualization and VR/AR/MR (Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Reality) at Hunter College. The intended impact is to use the creative potential of Immersive 3D technology to attract and broaden participation of women and underrepresented minorities in STEM and computing fields. Participants will also be provided training in immersive 3D visualization tools and technologies. This experience will include excursions and social events.

“I believe that the virtual, augmented and mixed reality technology helps to unleash the creativity of students and increases their interest in technology,” Wole Oyekoya, Associate Professor of Computer Science at Hunter College, said. “This program also provides the opportunity to be involved in building the metaverse with diversity, equity and inclusion in mind”.

The objective of the program is to inspire participating students to consider STEM as a career path and pursue STEM careers at the graduate level, and specifically target participation of women and underrepresented groups. The program identified research mentors with immersive visualization needs and pair each student with a research mentor. Research mentors include diverse faculty members not just from Computer Science but also from diverse fields including film and media, arts, health, journalism, social sciences and biological sciences. Research mentors include faculty members from eight CUNY colleges, University of Columbia and University of California, Santa Barbara.

Students will participate in mentored research projects in data driven research areas, including scientific visualization and visual analytics. Some of the planned research projects include: VR for aiding students with learning disabilities, MicroRNA (Ribonucleic Acid) as a regulator for cell lineage plasticity, immersive remote telepresence, sonifying the microbiome, and visualization of deep learning model architecture.

In addition to the exposure to cutting edge research, the students selected to participate will receive a travel stipend for one round trip to and from New York City, a housing allowance, a weekly stipend to cover living expenses and access to research faculty and VR/AR/MR resources to help facilitate their success in the program.

Two of our students (Aisha Frampton-Clerk and Diego Rivera) were also selected to receive a $10,000 fellowship through a new program, Last Mile Fellowship to Broaden Computing-Related REU Participation, that aims to improve diversity in computing-related research.

The VR-REU program is sponsored by NSF Grant No. 2050532 and is directed by the PI, Dr Wole Oyekoya. This funding supports Hunter College and CUNY in its mission to continue to provide higher education to a largely disadvantaged population that includes women and underrepresented minorities, immigrants or the children of immigrants and first-generation college students. This year’s program supports a diverse student cohort that is 70% female, 30% male, 40% African American, 20% Hispanic, 60% White, and 10% Asian.

Participants will present the results of their research on July 29, 2022 at Hunter College. Please contact the PI for more information.

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