Interested in research but don’t know where to start? Here’s some perspective into what research in computer science looks like at Viterbi!
When I was in high school, I thought doing research in a laboratory meant wearing gloves, goggles, and a lab coat while mastering your pipette technique. So when I was a college freshman and I heard people talk about research in the computer science field, I was pretty confused with what that might entail. I was surprised to find out how many research centers there are here at Viterbi! You can check out the list here.
I narrowed down my search to see exactly what a computer science research lab was like, and found another list of CS labs here. I picked out a few projects that interested me, and sent out some emails to the professors in charge. Word of advice: Don’t be afraid to reach out to faculty! Every professor I’ve spoken to has been excited to meet with me to discuss my interests and skills as well as any possibility of working in their lab!
After some time meeting with people and discussing projects, I decided to do research at the Robotics Embedded Systems Lab (or RESL). RESL is part of the Robotics and Autonomous Systems Center at USC and is overseen by Professor Gaurav Sukhatme, the Chairman of the Department of Computer Science! It’s located on the 4th floor of RTH and is full of robots (my personal favorite is the NAO robot!) While I’m often in the lab for meetings, a lot of my work can also be done from home!
This semester, I’m continuing my project on implementing path-planning algorithms for autonomous aquatic vehicles. I work with another undergrad and a PhD student in designing and implementing different algorithms for vehicle control, autonomy, sensing and navigation. These algorithms are applied to help biologists and oceanographers assess and predict harmful algal blooms.
Research may sound confusing and even intimidating, but believe me — I had no idea what to expect either. Research has been a new experience for me, but it’s so readily accessible at Viterbi and is an interesting perspective into what computer science is all about outside of internships! It’s also fascinating to see how the concepts I’ve learned in class are being used in real applications. I highly recommend finding a lab or research topic that interests you and getting involved. It’s a great way to learn new concepts and build skills along the way while exploring a new project!
There’s so much amazing research out there and at Viterbi, you can experience it front and center. Give it a try, and as always, fight on!