Research Projects by Subject

We will continue to post projects to this page as they are approved. Please check back periodically for updates.

Note:
Each research project will involve background reading for the interns provided by their mentors.
Each research project will involve a final presentation by the interns.

Interns are expected to work collaboratively on the
same project and/or data set.
This may preclude rising seniors from submitting papers based on such projects to the Regeneron Science Talent Search competition

Please feel welcome to research the projects and labs associated with the SIP Research Projects listed below, but PLEASE DO NOT contact any mentors or faculty. Mentors will reach out to admitted interns who have been assigned to their projects during the research preparation weeks of June 7-18, 2021.

Applied Artificial Intelligence

Project Code: AAI-01
Title: Machine Learning and Mineral Identification on Mars
Primary Mentor: Genesis Berlanga
Faculty advisor: Prof. Quentin Williams
Location: Remote/online
Number of Interns: 3

Project description:
NASA’s Mars rovers take thousands of images and spectra every day. Analyzing this information is a massive task that takes months of work, but with the help of computers, scientists can shorten the time it takes to arrive at exciting results. In order to train a computer to be a geological assistant, the SIP interns will program a computer to automatically identify rocks and minerals found on the surface of the Moon and Mars. The interns will help build neural networks modeled after the circuitry of brain neurons to train the computer to accomplish this task using rocks we find on Earth. This research project will inform future research for Mars rovers like Curiosity or Perseverance, by finding ways to simplify rock and mineral identification while roving the surface of another planet.

Tasks:
The SIP interns’ tasks will include: (1) identifying spectra and images of rocks and minerals relevant to the Moon and Mars; (2) programming in Python, MATLAB, or R; and (3) building a neural network that automatically identifies minerals. Computer programming experience is encouraged but not necessary. The mentor will provide training.

Required skills for interns prior to acceptance: Computer programming
Skills interns will acquire/hone: Computer programming

Special age requirement: Interns must be 16 years old by June 21, 2021.

Program Week Number: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Mentor’s availability: ON ON ON ON ON ON ON ON

Project Code: AAI-02
Title: Procedural Road Generation for Self-driving Vehicles
Primary Mentor: Golam Md. Muktadir
Faculty advisor: Prof. Luca de Alfaro
Location: Remote/online
Number of Interns: 4

Project description:
In this project, we build algorithms which can automatically generate roads in digital format which can be used in simulation or game engines such as Unity or Unreal Engines. This procedural generation reduces the amount of human effort in designing digital roads. Our goal is to make novel algorithms that can generate roads which are similar to real-world roads. Current work generates roads which either requires a lot of real-world data and human effort, or generates a very limited set of variations. Anything produced by interns in this project is publishable as papers. Interns will learn about self-driving car development, how their simulation is done, and how to code for them! We can even use AI to simulate driving with the roads that will be created!

Tasks:
Interns will (1) learn about self-driving car research and development; (2) learn to do Python programming with clean code (extremely valuable); (3) solve geometric problems with coding; and (4) run simulations (optional).

Required skills for interns prior to acceptance: Computer programming
Skills interns will acquire/hone: Computer programming
URL: https://github.com/AugmentedDesignLab/junction-art

Program Week Number: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Mentor’s availability: ON ON ON ON ON ON ON ON

Anthropology

As of yet, no mentors have submitted projects for this field of research. Mentors are still in the process of submitting projects, so please check back periodically for updates.

Astronomy & Astrophysics

Project Code: AST-01
Title: What Happens Around Supermassive Black Holes
Primary Mentor: Dr. Martin Gaskell
Location: Remote/online
Number of Interns: 3

Project description:
Astronomers now believe that every large galaxy contains a supermassive black hole in its center. Because of the tremendous energy released as the black hole grows by swallowing gas, these black holes can be readily detected as so-called “active galactic nuclei” (AGNs) back to very early times in the Universe. The details of how supermassive black holes form and grow and how this is related to the formation of normal galaxies is one of the central mysteries of contemporary astrophysics. The mentor’s research group is analyzing spectra and spectral variability to try to understand how AGNs produce the intense radiation seen, what the structure of material around the black hole is like, and how supermassive black holes grow.

Tasks:
SIP intern involvement in the project will consist of analyzing multi-wavelength spectral observations of relatively nearby actively accreting supermassive black holes to try to understand the emissions and how the black holes grow. This work will involve compiling data sets, applying corrections, making statistical estimates of parameters, and comparing the results with theoretical models of processes going on around black holes.

Required skills for interns prior to acceptance: Computer programming
Skills interns will acquire/hone: Computer programming; statistical data analysis
URL: http://campusdirectory.ucsc.edu/cd_detail?uid=mgaskell

Program Week Number: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Mentor’s availability: ON ON ON ON ON ON ON ON

Biomolecular Engineering

Project Code: BME-01
Title: SARS-COVID-19 Variants Study
Primary Mentor: Gepoliano Chavez
Faculty advisor: Prof. Nader Pourmand
Location: Remote/online
Number of Interns: 3

Project description:
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, this research group has been exploring the possibility of developing a DNA-sequencing platform to detect the Coronavirus based on a DNA-sequencing method called NGS, Next Generation Sequencing. In this research project, the group will make use of some of the knowledge gained in working on the development of a Coronavirus detection platform to present the SIP interns with basic strategies to study the genome of the virus. These strategies include the design of primers to amplify genomic regions of interest, and the notion of variant call, identifying Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs), which can explain the inter-species jumps of viral strains making them prone to infect different species.

Tasks:
The SIP interns will work on the following tasks: (1) primer design for genomic region amplification; and (2) identification of Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms in the genome of the Coronavirus. They will run bash and R scripts to identify variants in the viral genome.

Required skills for interns prior to acceptance: None
Skills interns will acquire/hone: Computer programming; statistical data analysis

Program Week Number: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Mentor’s availability: OFF ON ON ON ON ON ON ON