Designing Your Own Research at USC

Natalie Monger Computer Science, Natalie, Research, Viterbi Class, Viterbi Life, Viterbi Plus, Why USC

Hello, friends!

First, let me start off by saying that if you haven’t read my recent post about how to obtain research at USC, you should go read that. This post will make much more sense after you have done so.

So, my previous research post discussed how to find your own unique qualities you bring to the table in order to find a research position on campus. But how can you bring this even further and design your own research projects?

At USC, it’s totally possible to come up with your own ideas for what to work on in your research lab and direct your own progress. This is what I’m doing this semester in my research positions. I’d like to describe my experience and perhaps inspire you to ideate and create your own projects.

As some of you may know, I have two research positions: one at the USC Institute for Creative Technologies Vision and Graphics Lab and another at the USC Choreographic Institute. For both positions this semester, I came up with my own project ideas. Both of these projects combine my major and minor subjects to create things that, I think, will impact the fields of technology and dance.

At ICT, I pitched a project that is totally out of my comfort zone: dancing the Viterbi algorithm. You may be asking, “How does one dance the Viterbi Algorithm?”

Well, this year is the 50th anniversary of the Viterbi Algorithm. I plan to celebrate that by exploring the intersection of dance and computer vision using topics like Tensorflow and convolutional neural networks to improve object tracking/detection in videos. That’s the best way I can describe it without getting too technical.


However, I don’t need to get technical with you to get my main point across: it’s okay to have a big idea, not know exactly how to pursue it, and still make it work. That’s what USC’s amazing resources like professors, fellowship programs, and your friends are here to help you with.


I am enjoying studying a technical issue in graphics research and taking a choreographic approach it, which is something graphics researchers wouldn’t normally do. In order to have an impact on different areas of research, USC students think beyond what the “right” or “usual” way to do it is. This way, your work will create different ways of thinking that can benefit other artists, researchers, and more. There are a number of programs at USC that encourage this approach to engineering, and I’d like to share them with you in case you’re ever interested:

I hope these resources inspire you to work hard on your own research projects. Remember, there are many more resources surrounding research at USC.

While I definitely have the option to pursue traditional research that is assigned to me by my faculty leads, I know that I’m truly studying my passions if I work on my own ideas that I’ve always wanted to try. It’s helping me to become more independent as a research assistant, and I am excited to see what kinds of great things come from my hard work this semester.


If you have any questions at all, feel free to reach out to me! I also occasionally post updates on my research projects on my Instagram, so you can definitely check that out as well. Happy researching!

About the Author

Natalie is a junior studying Computer Science/Business and Dance. Click the photo above to find out more.

More From Viterbi Students