Adnan Hoq checked learning Mandarin, computer science and traveling to China off his bucket list this summer.
Hoq, a senior at SJC Brooklyn, traveled to Beijing to participate in Tsinghua University’s distinguished computer science summer program that focused on Deep Learning, a study that is part of a broader range of machine learning methods based on learning data representations.
Hoq said the curriculum was intense, explaining that professors jammed eight weeks of material into just three weeks. To top it off, most of his peers in the program already had doctorate degrees and patents in their names.
Despite the challenges, Hoq said his professors back home at SJC Brooklyn, where Hoq is a math and computer science double major, prepared him for the academic journey.
“I already knew most of the basics,” Hoq said. “The professors at St. Joe’s did a really good job laying down the foundation.”
Hoq’s experience was part of St. Joseph’s College’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program. The initiative gives St. Joseph’s students the opportunity to use their summer break to study in a program funded by the National Science Foundation, or NSF.
To participate in the program, there is a competitive application process, explained Michael J. Hanophy, Ph.D., interim executive dean at SJC Brooklyn. He noted that students who earn the fellowships often enjoy free admission into the program, plus room and board, and travel. Sometimes the student even receives a stipend.
Hoq and two of his peers — Ronojoy Hem ’19, a biology major with a chemistry minor, and Naomi Moreira ’19, a computer science and math double major — are sharing their REU internship experiences with underclassmen with the hopes that more St. Joseph’s students take advantage of the REU program.
Diving Into Research
Like Hoq, Hem and Moreira said the REU program helped them apply concepts they learned in class to the real world.
As part of the REU program, Hem spent 10 weeks in Syracuse at an environmental science and medicine program, operated jointly by SUNY Upstate and SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. He spent most of the time working on an in-depth project that involved detecting microcystin in the tissues of freshwater shrimp bought from a market near Lake Tai, China.
Hem also attended weekly journal clubs and research seminars usually reserved for first-year graduate students.
“The program did a very good job of giving me an idea of what an actual graduate school experience may look like,” Hem said of his experience. “The SURF program also organized certain recreational activities such as a nature hike, (multiple) free trips to restaurants and a four-hour kayak ride down the Moose River.”
Meanwhile, Moreira spent eight weeks working as a student researcher for the Mathematical and Theoretical Biology Institute at Arizona State University. She spent four weeks in intensive classes in applied mathematics and mathematical software. After that, she dived into research; Moreira and her group studied the economics on prison and how transition programs help to reduce recidivism.
During the internship, Moreira also attended a National Diversity in STEM conference, which proved to be a great networking opportunity for the young scholar.
“The MTBI Program encouraged all participants to apply to the SACNAS conference,” Moreira said. “The conference gave me a chance to attend various workshops, and receive advice on the necessary steps to pursue a Ph.D. I was able to re-connect with peers and faculty who I met during the MTBI program.”
Prepped by the ACES Program
Hoq, Hem and Moreira — who are all international students — credited the Academic Center for English Language Studies (ACES) program for giving them the foundation they needed to take on such challenging internships.
The classes that I took at the ACES programs proved to be helpful when I started writing my personal statements. As St. Joe’s is a small college I was able to communicate with my professors, who were happy to write a strong recommendation letter. – Naomi Moreira ’19
Each of the three said they used ACES resources to help them with the long application process to apply for REUs. Without the help of ACES, the students would have missed out on the opportunity for a truly unique educational journey, including the traveling and sightseeing that went along with the program.
In addition to the learning experience, Moreira of Ecuador, said she had the opportunity to visit the Grand Canyon and the
ASU Planetarium over the summer. Hem of Bangladesh enjoyed a nature hike, multiple free trips to restaurants and a four-hour kayak ride down the Moose River. Hoq, who is also from Bangladesh, went sightseeing in Beijing and immersed himself in Chinese culture — including taking classes in Mandarin, calligraphy and knitting.
Encouraging Others To Take On REUs
The trio of SJC Brooklyn scholars gave a presentation last month to underclassmen, encouraging them to find similar experiences.
“Underclassmen should really make use of this opportunity because it is a very valuable academic experience,” Hem said. “We had an opportunity to network with leading researchers … The program was a great opportunity for me to meet people from other states and other parts of the world. I’m still in contact with many of them and we are even providing each other feedback with our graduate school applications.”