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Undergraduate Researchers

Esther Gross

Esther Gross, Mathematics

Summer Researcher

Where did you conduct your research this summer?

I conducted my research at the Claremont Colleges in Claremont, California.

How did you find out about applying for summer research?

I found out about applying for summer research because through the Meyerhoff program. They strongly encourage all of us to apply for Summer Research Opportunities for Undergraduates (REUs).

Where did you look to learn which places were hiring undergraduate researchers?

There are lots of great opportunities on the NSF website. Furthermore, google is a great resource if you just search for keywords like "internships," "REUs," and "Undergraduate Research."

How many places did you apply to?

I applied to around 10 different internships. This was helpful because they can be really competitive.

Was the application process difficult? Who helped you?

The application process reminded me of applying to college. It's not too difficult, though it is very important to keep organized. I recommend making a chart to keep track of deadlines, reminding professors about recommendations, and writing a generic personal statement that can be modified as needed.

What research did you do?

My research was on the statistical modeling and clustering of music. We looked at 544 short drum interludes and worked on instrument recognition using template matching and Hidden Markov Models.

Was this your first time conducting research in the summer?

Yes and I highly recommend it. It was the most fun enriching experience that I had all summer.

What background did you have before you applied?

Though I was vaguely familiar with statistics, I had never actually taken a class and had very little experience with the material. However, I had no difficulty picking it up. All of us were glad to help each other overcome holes in our background. Don't let background stop you from applying, just be up front about it.

Who did you work with during your research? A professor? graduate student? other undergraduates?

I worked with a group of undergraduates as well as a professor. It was such a pleasant experience working side by side with a professor rather than being 'told what to do.'

Where did you live while you were doing the research?

I lived on Pomona campus in the dorms with the rest of the researching.

Were you paid?

The internship provided a very generous stipend. Furthermore, housing and food with provided along with lots of fun activities.

How do you think this research experience helped you?

In addition to helping me learn more about graduate school and academic research in the field of mathematics, it was a very empowering experience. Furthermore, I made tons of friends with similar interests.

Will you do research this year during the academic year?

Yes, I am currently in the process of searching for a professor to do research with for the next couple of years.

What about next summer?

I will either be participating in research on campus or applying to another internship. I can't wait.

What would you say to other UMBC students about finding and doing summer research?

You should definitely do it! Don't be afraid to ask others for help and whatever you do, don't limit yourself. Apply to several places, even places that are on the other side of the country. It's about a lot more than just research, it's a wonderful life experience.

What are your goals after UMBC?

My goal is ultimately to earn a Ph.D. in mathematics and become a professor. I am still trying to determine what graduate school I would like to attend. Regardless of where life takes me, I hope that I can be a perpetual student and continue to learn.