Mac Research Opportunities

Academic Year Research Opportunities

Many MSCS students collaborate in research during college. During the school year, research can be performed via an honors project, capstone project, or independent study. To initiate work with a Macalester faculty member, start by talking with a professor with whom you would like to work. Also visit the Macalester Science and Research Office.

Summer Research Opportunities

Macalester provides opportunities for paid summer research with a faculty sponsor. Usually, students live on (or near) campus. After completing their summer research, students can attend national meetings of professional societies to present their work. Sometimes, summer work even leads to a joint publication in a research journal.

Below is a description of the MSCS faculty who are looking for summer research students for next year. Contact faculty individually if their work sounds interesting.

Faculty Name: Professor Susan Fox
Department: Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science
Title of Research: Adaptive Robot Navigation: Building Robots That Learn

Description: Robot technology is increasingly present in our everyday lives, from robot vacuum cleaners to cars that can parallel park themselves, to cars that drive themselves. Successful robot systems need to exhibit robust behavior: to be predictable and reliable over time. My current research has focused on image processing to support the robot localization, which is the process of determining where the robot is in the world. The robot lab has several different robots, writing programs that can be used with any of the robots is a current goal.

Students interested in working with me should come talk with me prior to submitting an application. Students should have completed Comp 124 at least; preferably Comp 221 as well. Experience with artificial intelligence is NOT required; training in the tools used to program the robots will be a part of any research collaboration. Students and I will need to submit a request for funding to the SFSR (Student-Faculty Summer Research) fund at Macalester.

Faculty Name: Professor Shilad Sen
Department: Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science
Title of Research: Visualizing the Universe of Information

Description: Search engines such as Google give us incredible capabilities to answer specific questions (How many people live in Minnesota?). However, computers are far worse at helping us explore (Which alumni from my school should I network with?).

This project creates map-based visualizations of information spaces that enable people to quickly understand the high-level structure of the space and "zoom in" to answer specific questions. Our system will empower people to explore information spaces like musical artists, alumni networks, and Wikipedia articles. For example, a high-level visualization of a school's alumni network would provide an overview of the main career fields for alumni, while a user could zoom in to identify specific alums with careers in, for example, GIS.

Our team of four to six summer researchers will develop the algorithms and visualizations for this system. We will create neural networks mined from Wikipedia that model hundreds of millions of words, phrases, and concepts across hundreds of different languages. We will pair these models with web-based visualizations inspired by sites such as Google Maps.

All students must have strong proficiency in either Java or Javascript. Additional helpful skills include studio art / design, geography / GIS, linear algebra, and machine learning. This project is a collaboration with Prof. Brent Hecht (UMN) and we will regularly visit his lab at the University of Minnesota.

To apply please email a cover letter, transcript, and code sample (github pointer is fine!) to by February 7th, 2016.

Faculty Name: Professor Libby Shoop
Department: Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science
Title of Research: Parallel Computing Techniques

Description: Professor Libby Shoop will be conducting research pertaining to parallel computing techniques, especially those that can be used in Computer Science Education.  We will work with interesting hardware and build sophisticated computer systems for use in courses here at Macalester and other colleges and universities.  Please visit Libby in Olin-Rice 232 to find out more and to apply for a summer position.

A partial list of peer-reviewed collaborative papers by Macalester students

  • Shoop, E., R. Brown, E. Biggers, M. Kane, D. Lin, and M. Warner (2012). Virtual clusters for parallel and distributed education. In: Proceedings of the 43rd ACM technical symposium on Computer Science Education.
    SIGCSE ’12. New York, NY, USA: ACM, pp.517522.
  • Beveridge, Andrew and Cooke, Sean (’09) “The Mathematical Sorting Hat,” UMAP Journal, Vol. 33, No.2 (2012), 99—118.
  • A. Catllá, A. McNamara (’10), and C.M. Topaz. Instabilities and patterns in coupled reaction-diffusion layers, Phys. Rev. E 85 (2) (2012) 026215.
  • Addona, Vittorio and Roth, Jeremy (‘10) "Quantifying the Effect of Performance-Enhancing Drug Use on Fastball Velocity in Major League Baseball," Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports: Vol. 6 : Iss. 2, Article 6.
  • Daniel Flath, Tom Halverson, and Kathryn Herbig ('06), "The Planar Rook Algebra and Pascal's Triangle," L'Enseignement Mathématique, (2) 55 (2009), 77–92. Find in Digital Commons
  • Lewin, D. ('09) and Addona, V. (2007) "Measuring player contribution in the NBA". 2007 Proceedings of the American Statistical Association, Section on Statistics in Sports, Alexandria, VA: American Statistical Association, pp. 2578–2580.
  • Susan Fox and Peter Anderson-Sprecher (’06), "Robot Navigation Using Integrated Retrieval of Behaviors and Routes", Proceedings of the 19th International FLAIRS Conference (Florida Artificial Intelligence Research Society), AAAI Press, Menlo Park, CA. Presented at Melbourne Beach, Florida, May 2006. Find in Digital Commons
  • William Briggs, Stephen Becker, Adrianne Pontarelli ('04), and Stan Wagon, The dynamics of falling dominoes, UMAP Journal, 26:1 (Spring 2005) 35–47
  • Dale Beihoffer, Jemimah Hendry '03, Albert Nijenhuis, and Professor Stan Wagon, "Faster algorithms for Frobenius numbers," Electronic Journal of Combinatorics, 12:1 (2005) R27
  • Tom Halverson and Tim Lewandowski ('03), "RSK Insertion for Set Partitions and Diagram Algebras," Electronic Journal of Combinatorics, Volume 11(2), (2004–2005) R24.
  • Shoop E, Casaes P ('04), Onsongo G ('04), Lesnett L ('03), Petursdottir EO ('04), Donkor EK ('04), Tkach D ('03), Cosimini M ('05), "Data exploration tools for the Gene Ontology database," Bioinformatics. 2004 Dec 12;20(18):3442–54
  • Momar Dieng ('00), Tom Halverson, and Vahe Poladian ('99), Characters of the q-rook monoid, J. Algebraic Combin., 17 (2003), no. 2, 99–123. Find in Digital Commons
  • Tom Halverson and John Farina ('01), "Character orthogonality for the partition algebra and fixed points of permutations," Adv. in Appl. Math., 31 (2003), no. 1, 113–131.
  • Michael Schneider and Tamas Nemeth ('99), "A Simulation Study of the OSPF/OMP Routing Algorithm," Computer Networks, 4 (2002).
  • Andy Cantrell ('02), Tom Halverson, Brian Miller('02), "RSK Insertion for Cyclotomic Hecke Algebras," Journal of Combinatorial Theory A, 99 (2002).
  • Chris Bremer ('02) and Danny Kaplan, "Markov Chain Monte Carlo Estimation of Nonlinear Dynamics from Time Series," Physica D, 160 (2001). Find in Digital Commons
  • John Renze, ('01) Stan Wagon, B. Wick, "The Gaussian Zoo," Experimental Mathematics, 10, pp 161–173 (2001).
  • John Bruning, Andy Cantrell ('02), Robert Longhurst, Dan Schwalbe, Stan Wagon, "Rhapsody in White: A victory for mathematics," The Mathematical Intelligencer, 22:3 (2000) 37–40. Find in Digital Commons
  • Claire and Helaman Ferguson, Dan Schwalbe, Tamas Nemeth ('99), and Stan Wagon Invisible Handshake, The Mathematical Intelligencer, 21:4 (Fall 1999) 30–35. Find in Digital Commons
  • Aaron Schlafly ('93) and Stan Wagon, Carmichael's conjecture is valid below 10^10,000,000, Mathematics of Computation 63 (1994) 415–419. Find in Digital Commons