University of Hull

CSRG - Summer Research Internships


| CSI Technical Reports | Department of Computer Science | University of Hull |

Research Experience for Undergraduates

We run a summer research internship scheme for undergraduates in Computer Science at the University of Hull. Students with good grades can apply and we take on a group of students at various levels to experience what research in computer science is like. Projects vary considerably from year to year, but emphasise current topical and strategic project areas of interest to the department.

The Summer Research Internship Programme was based on ideas and experiences developed over more than 20 years at Syracuse University in USA, at Adelaide University in South Australia and at Massey University in New Zealand. It was essentially a “Research Experience for Undergraduates” programme - aiming at helping our own University of Hull students understand what research is and what it involves and given a glimpse of how they themselves might get involved in postgraduate research. In 2014 the Department of Computer Science was able to fund 18 places for 8 weeks over July and August. A range of students at 1st year, 2nd year and finalists’ level participated and worked on research project topics including: experimenting with 3D printing software; simulating large marine and shipping data systems; medical image processing experiments; experiments with software for robotic systems such as Lego windstorms; App development; educational MOOC software infrastructure development; gaming systems; virtual reality systems such as the Oculus Rift goggles; domain-specific program generation software; smart watch software; and the use of HIVE facilities. Project areas were chosen strategically, and many of the projects were deliberately intended to stimulate project activity in areas that the Department of Computer Science envisages helping establish collaborative activities with the University Research Institutes.

As well as having an individual project supervisor, each of the participants were able to interact with existing postgraduate students in the Department, and had an informal coaching session every week with the Head of Department where they were able to discuss their projects with one another. A number of social events were also organised for the interns and the students were housed for the summer in one of the Computer Science laboratories where they were given a desk and computer as well as access to specialised equipment relevant to their particular projects. The mix of students meant that they could be helped to help one another with the more experienced participants also helping the first and second years experiment with the equipment.

Although all projects did produce a demo of some sort, the main outcomes of the programme were always intended to be the students themselves and their enthusiasm for research. A particular aim was to help the undergraduate population realise just what research in Computer Science is all about and to see how they could in fact aspire to, for example, a PhD. Many students came from backgrounds where they had no idea what a PhD was about and had no aspirations about postgraduate study at the start of the summer. By the end, 6 of the finalists were very keen indeed on applying for PhD study in computer science and the Department funded strategic projects in areas aligning with research topics to stimulate areas of potential external funding for collaborations with the Research Institutes. Interns involved in the programme have subsequently been instrumental in helping demonstrate our activities to high profile visitors including: HRH The Duke of York, KC; The Hon Greg Clark, MP, Minister for Science and Universities; and His Excellency Mr Matthew Barzan, The US Ambassador to the UK. Many of the 1st and 2nd year participants are now involved in providing demonstrations for the Department at Open and Applicant days and some are now HIVE Demonstrators as well. Of the 1st and 2nd year participants, a further 4 have already expressed a definite desire to go on to PhD study.

Over the summer of 2014, some of the interns also helped the Department run Research Symposia: in High Performance Computing; in Apps and Augmented Reality and on IT for Marine Heritage all of which areas are now growing into funded activities connected with the University Research Institutes. The interns, and those staying on in particular, have also helped transform the postgraduate research culture within the Department and, in particular, have helped transform our main lab from what was quite a sterile environment into a vibrant and “research happening place” that we are now proud to show to student and parent visitors.

The Department now runs this programme annually and 24 new internship places offered in 2015 with projects in areas including: sediment simulation in estuaries; software for the Internet of Things and devices such as iBeacons; software development for visualizing PET-scanned data; virtual environments in education; agent-based modeling of complex transport systems; 3D printing of medical artifacts; simulating complex energy distribution systems; managing heritage data; web harvesting information; simulating avatars in VR systems; natural language processing; eye-tracking in VR environments; code generation using interactive tools; and GPU acceleration of volume visualization.

Some photos below show off some of the projects and interns working with various facilities in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Hull.

Computer Science Research Intern Connor Clarkson with an interactive Virtual Reality lightsabre game he developed in the HIVE immersive reality Cube during his 2014 Summer Research Internship.

Undergraduate Research Intern Danny Fleming at the controls of the Department's Driving Simulation, researching hazard avoidance algorithms.

Computer Science Research Interns Caitlin Padgett and Mariusz Kosmatka flying one of the Department's quadcopter research drones, capturing photographic imagery and sensor data.

Computer Science Research Intern Russell Billingsley developing a 3D fractal cluster simulation.

| CSI Technical Reports | Ken Hawick | Department of Computer Science | University of Hull |