Students present summer research at URSI symposium


On Wednesday, Sept. 27, Vassar students presented their faculty-advised research projects at the 2017 Undergraduate Research Summer Institute (URSI) Symposium, the 22nd annual of its kind. It featured undergraduate research in fields such as anthropology, computer science and mathematics, as well as lab sciences like chemistry and biology.

On Wednesday, students, parents and faculty crowded the Villard Room for the afternoon’s program to see the 45 projects on display. Dean of the Faculty Jon Chenette and Director of URSI David T. Carreon Bradley gave opening remarks. Next were three oral presentations from student researchers.

...  Kaya Deuser ’20 went first. Titled “Navigation Strategies of Autonomous Agents: How to Choose Your New Vacuum Cleaner,” Deuser’s research tackled issues of automation. In her presentation, she focused on the issues of automated vacuum cleaners, examining two distinct strategies of automation. Deuser worked closely with Professor of Computer Science Pavel Naumov on her research.

Deuser and Naumov’s project was purely theoretical; unlike most URSI researchers, Deuser spent no time in the lab. “Rather than doing a standard nine-to-five shift, we spent about four hours a day just talking about the theory one-on-one,” she said. “You can’t think about this stuff much longer than that.” Deuser added that staying focused was one of her biggest challenges.

Deuser, however, had passion on her side. “I had no idea I had this interest before starting my research,” she said. “I wasn’t even a computer science major.” Deuser elaborated on how she fell into her project, becoming Professor Naumov’s research assistant her first year at Vassar. Researching with Naumov helped her discover what turned out to be an incredible passion. “It feels so good to be working to solve a big problem … It makes me feel good about the way I think and work.”

Deuser and Naumov have since authored two papers together. She continues her research nine hours a week with Professor Naumov this semester and hopes to apply for summer research again next year. “URSI’s a great experience—you get to work on something you’re passionate about.” ...