For Jay Tolentino, her research gave her the opportunity to gain skills that were not available through her classes. She discovered a passion for software engineering late in her undergraduate career, and her research allowed her to develop her abilities in ways that her major did not provide. When she started her research, Jay did not realize the impact it would have on her future; her experience has helped her hone her interests, solidify her goals, and more fully prepare for her future career. UROP is pleased to recognize Jay for the dedication she has brought to her undergraduate research.

1. What is your specific area of research (include the name of your faculty and/or laboratory)?

My research sits at the intersection of human≠computer interaction (ďHCIĒ) and software engineering. Specifically, my project is about a reviewing system called Turkopticon that was initially created as a media project to provoke ethical and political debate, but has since scaled up to thousands of users. I reworked the systemís infrastructure to be more maintainable and scalable, and my writing examines Turkopticon as a case on incorporating software engineering principles with HCI projects to make robust software with social value. Iím a part of the GreenIT Lab in Calit2 with Professor Bill Tomlinson and Ph.D. student Six Silberman.

2. When and how did you first get involved in research?

Fortunately, I joined the Information and Computer Science Honors Program fall of my senior year, though I didnít originally see its future impact on my undergraduate experience. The program requires that I pair up with a faculty mentor to do research and complete an honors thesis over at least two quarters. The graduate student I work with now was a teaching assistant for one of my favorite classes, and he introduced me to my current faculty mentor.

3. How has research enhanced your education?

Although the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences offers a wide variety of programs, I still found myself looking for more freedom and exploration in my studies. I only recently decided to pursue software engineering as a career, but it was too late in my undergraduate career for me to take any major actions with my coursework. Fortunately, my mentors are very receptive to my interests and provide me with the resources to follow what I want to do. Because of the guidance I received, Iíve developed a stronger understanding of what I want from my future career.

4. What has been your favorite experience with research (include any interesting stories or specific events)?

Despite the many project classes Iíve completed, Iíve never really had people (outside of friends and classmates) actually using my code. My most memorable experience thus far is when my code went live to serve hundreds of users per day. Specifically, I remember sitting and watching the log file grow as users ping the script I wrote, realizing that my code is now an integral part of an actual piece of software.

5. What are your future plans and how has being involved in research helped to prepare you to meet your goals?

After graduation, I plan to be a software engineer. However, when I decided this, I knew as an Informatics major that my background and experiences were not directly aligned with that path. Research provided the leeway for me to work on and develop the skills I need to become a competitive software engineering applicant. Thinking a little farther into the future, Iím also interested in going to graduate school to continue learning more about software engineering, and this experience allowed me to explore the idea of a future in academia.

6. What advice would you give to a student interested in pursuing a faculty-mentored undergraduate research project or creative activity?

In my experience, the best faculty and graduate student mentors are the ones you genuinely enjoy listening to and learning from. Iíd recommend talking to the professors or teaching assistants of your favorite classes and finding out what they do for research. You can also try sitting in on one of their lab meetings to see the other projects available under that particular professor but perhaps with other graduate students. If youíre more of an introvert, you can start by looking at professorsí online websites to see their associated research labs. Then, you can email or set up a meeting with whoever is heading a project aligned with your interests.

Past Researchers of the Month

Dec. '15 Ka Hei (Eric) Chan
Nov. '15 Timna Medovoy
Oct. '15 Soraya Davia
Sep. '15 Amanda Nili
Aug. '15 Soo Song
Jul. '15 Tian Harrison
Jun. '15 Rommel Santos
May. '15 Mariyah Saiduddin
Apr. '15 Angel Rodriguez
Mar. '15 Sarah Tang
Feb. '15 Jay Tolentino
Jan. '15 Yuhao Ma