In October, our SEES research team presented at the 2022 MIT Undergraduate Research Technology Conference (MIT URTC), becoming the first SEES team ever to be selected to present a paper at this competition. We wanted to share our experience with MIT URTC, from the starting point of our SEES research project to developing a publishable manuscript and presenting our paper at the conference.
At the onset of our research, we were motivated by a story we read in the news that detailed how human populations worldwide were becoming increasingly susceptible to vector-borne diseases, with devastating consequences. Therefore, we decided to apply our knowledge of coding to better understand and address this issue. Our final project centered on harnessing different types of data to create automated predictive models for future mosquito habitation through artificial intelligence mechanisms. The paper will be published in IEEE Xplore later this month and is entitled “Predicting Future Mosquito Larval Habitats Using Time Series Climate Forecasting and Deep Learning.”
Some of our project highlights can be seen below:
Applying to MIT URTC
Our application to present at the conference was serendipitous. During one of our SEES team meetings, Uma, a SEES alumnus, told us how her team had entered a poster into MIT URTC the previous year. None of us had ever heard of the event before, but after hearing about Uma’s experience presenting at MIT, we decided to apply to present at the conference. We chose to submit a paper as opposed to a poster because each of us had prior experiences with scientific writing and felt we had enough time to complete a publishable paper. There is also a poster submission option available to participants.
We scheduled daily meetings to put the finishing touches on our experimentation and discuss how best to convey the results in our paper. During these meetings, we experienced firsthand the effectiveness of team science, a skill-building focus of SEES Internship activities this year.
On July 31st, we finally finished polishing our paper and submitted the paper to MIT URTC. After waiting for an eternity (only a month, but it didn’t feel that way!), we were notified that our paper was accepted for the conference and selected for publication.
MIT URTC Experience
As travel to Boston was logistically difficult for our team, we participated in the conference virtually. We found the virtual experience to be streamlined, engaging, and highly accessible, and it allowed for active participation by virtual and international presenters.
On Saturday, October 1, we delivered an oral presentation on our paper. We had spent hours beforehand preparing the slideshow, creating scripts, and polishing our delivery, so we felt confident going into the presentation. Luckily, we didn’t even have to start from scratch since we already had a 5-minute script created from our presentation at the NASA SEES Symposium, so we just had to scale that up to 15 minutes.
After the presentation, we had a Q&A session, where MIT students, professors, and panelists in the audience had a chance to ask us questions. In particular, the conference chair asked several questions about our methodology's validity and our results' applicability. Apart from technical queries, we also fielded questions about some of our challenges and how we planned to continue our research in the future. It was valuable to experience the lens through which industry experts viewed our research, and answering technical questions on the spot was a very rewarding experience.
The conference was organized well and included not only the technical sessions where our presentation took place but also featured a tour of the campus and lectures by MIT scientists, as well as student lightning talks and poster presentations.
The presentations at URTC spanned a wide range of topics, from biomedical engineering to space science to nanotechnology. The project titles were posted beforehand, so we had an opportunity to attend presentations that were particularly interesting to us. All the research presentations were very innovative, but what stood out to us was how the presenters were able to make very complex and niche topics easily understandable. This greatly increased our enjoyment of the sessions.
Overall, the SEES research internship and the MIT Undergraduate Research Technology Conference were amazing experiences in cultivating an appreciation for team science, scientific writing skills, and science communication. We’re grateful for the tremendous opportunities to connect with fellow student researchers and industry professionals, which exposed us to many exciting new fields. We can’t wait to enter this conference again next year, and we hope you’ll join us there!
Jay is from Green Hope High School in North Carolina.
Christopher is from Monta Vista High School in California.
Ravnoor is from the Bronx High School of Science in New York.
About the authors: Jay, Christopher and Ravnoor were part of the NASA STEM Enhancement in the Earth Sciences (SEES) summer high school research internship. This virtual internship is part of a collaboration between the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) and the NASA Texas Space Grant Consortium (TSGC) to extend the TSGC Summer Enhancement in Earth Science (SEES) internship for US high school (http://www.tsgc.utexas.edu/sees-internship/).