Skip to main content

Data Science Institute welcomes 18 undergraduate fellows for virtual summer research

Posted by on Friday, June 5, 2020 in Arts and Humanities, College of Arts and Science, DSI-SRP, DSI-Supported Research, Engineering, Medical Sciences, Natural and Life Sciences, Newsletter, Owen School of Management, Peabody College, School of Engineering, School of Medicine, School of Nursing, Social and Behavioral Sciences.

On Monday, June 1st the Data Science Institute (DSI) welcomed its second cohort of Summer Research fellows. The summer research program (DSI – SRP) engages students who are interested in carrying out data-science-related research with a Vanderbilt faculty member and integrates them into the institute’s community of data science scholars. This year the program will expand its mission as students will be required to dedicate at least 30% of their time to working on COVID-19 related projects.

This year, the DSI awarded fellowships to eighteen undergraduate students with diverse academic backgrounds and research interests. Fortunately, even in this challenging environment, data science powers through with remote work, and the DSI has adapted to deliver workshops and learning content seamlessly online, allowing undergraduate students a chance to contribute to meaningful and impactful work over the summer.

Our undergraduate SRP fellows will engage in ten weeks of research with their faculty mentor and enhance their data science skills through online workshops lead by the data science team at the DSI and become articulate leaders through weekly demonstrations.

Director of Undergraduate Research, Dr. Thomas Palmeri, Chief Data Scientist, Dr. Jesse Spencer-Smith, and Assistant Director, Amanda Harding lead the DSI-SRP.

To learn more about the DSI-SRP visit our website.


  • David Cohen is a rising junior majoring in Cognitive Studies and Music Performance for Double Bass. His passion for research started in high school, leading him to study alcohol addiction at Vanderbilt. Working with Dr. Cody Siciliano, David will use pixelated images of rodent brains with real-time neuronal activity to assess the effects of different concentrations of alcohol and behavioral stimuli in various neural regions.
  • Anh Dao is a senior studying Psychology and Medicine, Health and Society. Working with Dr. Autumn Kujawa, Anh’s research project is a multi-method study of imposter syndrome, sensitivity to social feedback and sense of belonging in first year students. She will aim to improve treatment response prediction, with a focus on the reward positivity component derived from the electroencephalograph.
  • TingYan (Nicholas) Deng is a sophomore, originally from Shanghai, China, triple majoring in Computer Science, Math, and Economics. He will work with Dr. Benoit Dawant on an ongoing VISE-affiliated project that will use deep learning to develop methods for automatic AOI detection systems in relation to surgeon-worn video platform.
  • Lakshmi Suryateja Gangavarapu a senior majoring in Economics and Neuroscience will partner with Dr. Matthew Zaragoza Watkins to focus on developing novel tools for predicting the spread of COVID-19 and the severity of its impact among different demographic groups. Lakshmi hopes to combine his passion for science and economics to develop public health improvements for disadvantaged populations in developing nations.
  • Mubarak Ganiyu a Mechanical Engineering rising senior will work with the Wond’ry Executive Director, Dr. David Owens analyzing soccer players’ attributes and creating a predictive model for their potential performance. Additionally, Mubarak plans to conduct research on how COVID-19 has impacted the top five soccer leagues in Europe.
  • Claire Hanson is a rising senior from rural Minnesota who is majoring in Neuroscience and earning minors in scientific computing and French. Claire will explore two models for firing rates of decision-making neurons with a goal to understand which model best describes the dynamics of these neurons. Digging deeper into this debate could prompt revisiting decades of empirical and theoretical research on decision-making and its neural basis. Dr. Thomas Palmeri will serve as her mentor. 
  • Shijia (Scarlett) Huang is a junior double major studying Math and Economics. Working with Dr. Hallie Cho Scarlett will evaluate performance of pre-trained named entity recognition algorithms, establish a co-mention network of products in online review, use clustering algorithms to determine an optimal set of products, and then use sets as a proxy for products consumers typically consider together.
  • Jong Eun Jung is currently a rising junior majoring in Human and Organizational Development and Computer Science working with faculty mentor Dr. Jason Grissom. Her project will use natural language processing methods in Python to complete textual analysis of Tennessean district and school improvement plans and textual analysis of responses from the Tennessee Educator Survey.
  • Samuel Lee is a triple major in French Horn Performance, Computer Science, and Mathematics. As he enters his junior year, he will work with Dr. Thomas Palmeri to address how visual object recognition abilities vary. He will focus on how the brain represents visual objects, asking why neural representations of the same object differ from person to person.
  • Peixuan Li is currently a rising junior majoring in Political Science and Economics. In his research project with Dr. Enuji Kim, Peixuan will study the effects of Americans’ media consumption on their attitudes towards economic mobility. They will also investigate the extent to which the pandemic has exacerbated gender disparity in research productivity.
  • Emilio Loret de Mola is a senior Anthropology and Medicine, Health, and Society major. As a DSI-SRP fellow Emilio will work with Dr. Gilbert Gonzales examining food insecurity, SNAP participation, and the potential impact of new work requirements on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans. Through this research, they believe public policy and programmatic recommendations can be made for LGBT households seeking food and nutrition assistance.
  • Yuzhe Lu a rising junior, originally from Hangzhou, China, is a triple major studying Math, Computer Science, and Medicine, Health, and Society. In his research project guided by Dr. Yuankai Huo, Yuzhe will use public data to train deep learning models using meta-learning to understand pathology images. Then, the meta-learning model can be adapted to in-house renal pathology data.
  • Ao Qu a junior studying Math and Economics will work with Dr. Kejia Hu to investigate impacts of virtual queue on customer satisfaction. Additionally, they will look at two COVID-19 related datasets, one focusing on comparing performance of national chain nursing homes and local privately owned nursing homes. The other dataset will look at VUMC data regarding decision to delay treatment has negative impacts on patients and how large that impact is.
  • Nathan Raju is a junior majoring in Medicine, Health, and Society and minoring in Biology. He will conduct research with Dr. Ed Levine to understand the role of Lhx2, a transcription factor heavily involved in retinal development. By using single cell RNA analyses, our lab will identify genes on interest, genes that are regulated by Lhx2, and uncover their role in retinal development.
  • Henry Savich a rising senior in Math, minoring in Physics and Scientific Computing will partner with Dr. Brian Fitzpatrick on the Legal Natural Language Processing project. At the intersection of law, data science, and linguistics, Henry will use state-of-the-art machine learning methods on U.S. legal documents, with a primary goal to create an artificial intelligence capable of reading legal documents, and inferring important information about a case.
  •  Qiaohong (Joanna) Wang was a prior transfer student and currently a rising junior majoring in Math and Physics. Joanna will employ statistical inferences such as Gibbs sampling to help advance the implementation of Pulsar Timing Array datasets in the search of gravitational waves, which might yield illuminating information about potential signals and their diagnostics. Dr. Stephen Taylor will serve as her faculty mentor. 
  • Reena Zhang is a third year student majoring in Psychology and Computer Science. Under the supervision of Dr. Jennifer Trueblood, Reena will use statistical modeling with large-scale data from a longitudinal research study to assess the links between various social and psychology variables, people’s perceptions of the risk of contracting COVID-19, and their change in health behavior.
  •  Qianhui Zheng is junior Computer Science and Biochemistry double major. Qianhui will work with faculty mentor Dr. Antonis Rokas to examine mutational biases in fungal genomes to a) test whether fungal genomes experience mutational bias toward AT bases, and b) investigate whether other types of mutational bias exist. Her research questions will be addressed by using computational methods to obtain and analyze various types of mutations from fungal genome data.