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Student Profiles

Summer Research Features: VR Cybersickness

The Department of Computer Science is excited to feature our summer research groups and take a look at what they are working on! Today, we are highlighting the work of Dr. Sharif Mohammad Shahnewaz Ferdous’ research group.

Dr. Ferdous’ group includes Andrew Michael (‘24) and Kyla Ramos (‘23). The project is investigating the effectiveness of a visual cybersickness questionnaire.

The research objective of this project is to expand our understanding of how children perceive cybersickness in virtual reality (VR). Cybersickness is discomforts experienced by a user during or after the VR exposure. The most popular method for measuring cybersickness is via a Simulator Sickness Questionnaire (SSQ), developed using data obtained from navy pilots. The SSQ may not be suitable to measure cybersickness in children, as some of its questions (e.g., fullness of head, stomach awareness, etc.) can be difficult for children to comprehend.

To correctly measure cybersickness in children, it is crucial to develop a child-friendly questionnaire. Therefore, during MUSE 2021, Dr. Ferdous’ group will implement a web application that augments existing SSQ questions with animation that makes it easier to understand the symptoms.

Funding for this research project is provided by MUSE (Mentored Undergraduate Summer Experience) at TCNJ.

Clockwise from top left: Andrew Michael, Dr. Sharif Mohammad Shahnewaz Ferdous, Kyla Ramos

Summer Research Features: CABPortal

The Department of Computer Science is excited to feature our summer research groups and take a look at what they are working on!

Dr. Monisha Pulimood’s research group includes Kiera Gill (’23), Matthew Hannum (’23), and Jenna Stiesi (’22). The students are supported through Dr. Pulimood’s Barbara Meyers Pelson Chair in Faculty-Student engagement (AY 2018-2021) award. This summer, the students are working together to conduct research and continue development of CABPortal, a web-based application designed to make researches associated with the Collaborating Across Boundaries (CAB) pedagogical model publicly available.

The application leverages concepts from human computation, collective intelligence, and open collaboration to enable current and potential adopters to find interdisciplinary courses and project ideas of interest, and to become motivated to participate in the dissemination and sustainability of hosted projects. They are also continuing development on some of the applications developed by students in Dr. Pulimood’s Software Engineering classes in previous semesters.

The CAB Project was supported by two grants:

  1. The Barbara Meyers Pelson Chair in Faculty-Student Engagement Endowment Fund in academic years 2018 – 2021, during which time Dr. Pulimood was the endowed chair.
  2. NSF Award #1914869, Collaborating Across Boundaries (CAB) to Engage Undergraduates in STEM Learning, for which Dr. Pulimood is the principal investigator (PI), along with Professor Kim Pearson (Journalism & Professional Writing) and Professor Diane Bates (Sociology & Anthropology) who are the co-PIs.
Clockwise from left: Jenna Stiesi, Kiera Gill, Dr. Monisha Pulimood, Matthew Hannum
Siobhan Sabino ’12

Siobhan Sabino ’12

Siobhan Sabino is a jack of all trades — writer, photographer, Harry Potter aficionada, web designer, French linguist, and history buff. But it was love at first Google the day her family home hooked into the Internet, thus commencing her love affair with computers.

These days the sophomore computer science major balances a twenty-credit course load with graduate-level research developing a content management system called Collaboration and Facilitation Environment (CAFÉ). Designed to provide a “collaborative environment” for web publishing, the project is funded by two grant programs of the National Science Foundation (Collaborative Research Experience for Undergraduates- CREU, and Broadening Participation in Computing- BPC), and the project consists of three female undergraduates working under the direction of Drs. Monisha Pulimood, Kim Pearson and Ursula Wolz. Throughout the 2009-2010 academic year, Sabino has spearheaded the stabilization and security aspect of the program.

“My job is to get a stable, cleaned-up version that can be packaged and implemented by teachers in the classroom,” said Sabino. “This means combing through the code for mistakes and redundancies, so in the end it will not only work, but will be stable, safe, and difficult to crack.” At the moment, the technology of CAFÉ is designed to manage the content and workflow of the Interactive Journalism Institute for Middle Schoolers (IJIMS) at Fisher Middle School here in Ewing. However, the ultimate goal is for the program to be distributed throughout the country as a new tool of online journalism and creative writing in a digital setting.

Sabino describes CAFÉ as a shared user account database, to which students upload articles and then the teacher edits by means of a color-coded proofreading tool. After completing the suggested revisions, the student resubmits the article and it appears on the front page of the website. “As a writer working on a system for writers, I’m able to put myself in their place to anticipate uploading issues or decide what type of feedback would be most helpful,” noted Sabino. One of the most rewarding aspects of the project, she added, is seeing students, those who might never have had the chance to learn how to write well, create really engaging multimedia story packages.

“In high school, I was fortunate enough to have been given the tools to see how writing is not just about the words on the page but how they look, how to use them to create an image, and how to draw a picture around it,” she said. “I love the creative part of coding, of looking at things in a different way and thinking outside the box.”

Unsurprisingly, this mindset has been indispensable throughout the course of the project. At one point a dilemma arose of how to identify minors on the public website given that parents wanted to view their child’s articles. The creative solution was Sabino’s suggestion: parents would be provided general usernames and passwords to access the site.

When asked the most exciting part of research, Sabino described the sweet satisfaction of solving a problem. “Sometimes you’ll be working on the program, holed up in the lab for hours. The sun may have gone down and though its dark, you just don’t want to stand up and flick on the lights. But then, when you run the program, it miraculously works and you scream ‘YES!’ That pure exhilaration of success is unparalleled.”

Though she is taking things one step at a time, Sabino says an internship or, even better, a career with Google would be a dream come true. “Anything Google I cannot live without,” she exclaimed. “I would be lost without my Google calendar, I absolutely love Gmail, and Google Wave is the most amazing tool I’ve ever seen.” It is in precisely the sort of creative job environment Google boasts that Sabino hopes to work someday, crafting technology that helps people, “a new pay it forward,” she added.

In the meantime, the French and History minor plans to continue working with Dr. Pulimood over the summer as well as into next year, and Sabino is looking forward to attending the fall Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing Conference, funded by the CREU grant.

“The emphasis on involving only women and minorities in the CREU program is purposeful, it recognizes that other grants might be unknowingly prejudiced and compensates by giving us the opportunity,” she noted. “With CAFÉ, we are doing something similar: giving minority students the chance to be involved in computer science. It’s absolutely rewarding.”

Nadya Pena ’16

Nadya Pena ’16

Senior computer science major Nadya Pena has always felt like the newbie. She started at the College as a mathematics major and then switched to engineering, interactive multimedia, and English. She finally decided on computer science in her junior year.Nadya Pena 1_2

It was during her time as a mathematics major that she discovered her true passion through a required computer science class. “I went in there not understanding computers. I was a technophobe,” she says, remembering how she never once considered herself tech-savvy. However, computer science soon clicked with her. “It was interesting and fun and something that I could do,” she says.  Fast forward to the end of her senior year and this accomplished computer science major says, “I’m really lucky I fell in love with something so in demand.  You can really do anything with it:  healthcare, financial software, even Sephora has microchip makeup.”

With many students in her major having taken computer science courses in high school, Pena felt that she started a step behind among her peers. But despite having a late start in the field, she has accomplished so much during her college career. Currently, she is the president of the Association of Computing Machinery and the treasurer of Women in Computer Science (having previously served as president).  She is also a member of the Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority and works for TCNJ’s Residential Networking Services.

Nadya has overcome her natural shyness to take on leadership roles, explains Dr. Monisha Pulimood, chair of the Computer Science Department and Pena’s academic advisor.  “I attribute her ‘detours’ to a prior lack of awareness of the field due to insufficient exposure and a scarcity of role models in high school.”  With this in mind, Pena has worked to increase awareness of computer science to younger students.  She teaches children in grades K-12 how to program and also helps girls and minorities learn coding to help them become better represented in the field.  Professor Pulimood adds, “Nadya exemplifies the ‘growth mindset’ and stands out as a role model for young people, particularly those from groups that are underrepresented in computer science and who may be on their own journeys to discover their passions.”

Nadya Pena 3_1Pena is also a first-generation college student, owing a lot to her mother, a single parent who went above and beyond to make sure her children received a college education.  “My mother is perseverant and beat the odds while keeping a positive attitude in the face of adversity,” says Pena, whose family emigrated from the Dominican Republic. “We’ve done well for ourselves, and I’m very grateful for my mom.”

A member of the Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) program at the College, Pena is also part of the iPics Scholarship Program (a math and computer science joint program) and won a scholarship at the national Grace Hopper conference held in Texas. In addition to her leadership positions and stellar work ethic, Pena has created numerous projects illustrating her adroitness in the computer science field.

Nadya developed a program in which a television viewer can text the name of a show and receive information on whether the episode currently being aired advances the plot of the series or if it was a “stand-alone” episode.  While it started as a class project, Pena has continued with it independently and the program has now become her passion project. Another program she has worked on is a system to monitor the number of spaces in a parking lot by using tiny credit-card sized computers.

Pena has done three internships in software development: Prudential Financial, Wiley and Sons, Publishing Company, and Credit Suisse, where she also landed a summer job writing software for stock traders.

As to what her dream job would be, Pena hasn’t decided yet. She wants to teach a computer science class but also considers freelancing as a possible option. “I definitely want to work on interesting problems and solve them with computers,” she says. “Any job that allows me to do that, I’m okay with.”

– Kelly Corbett

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Kylie Gorman ’16

Kylie Gorman ’16

As Kylie Gorman went through the maddening college application process four years ago, she pictured her first year in college and saw herself in the laboratory with a beaker in hand, safety goggles, and a white lab coat. She had applied to several schools as a chemistry major, but to her dismay, TCNJ’s chemistry program was full at the time, requiring her to choose another major. But what exactly would she choose?

Kylie Gorman 1Fortunately, she was given the chance to sit in on a couple classes at TCNJ while deciding which school to attend. Gorman says she fell in love with the small class sizes, which helped the professors know all their students by name.

Fast forward to present day and Gorman is now a senior computer science major with an interactive multimedia minor.  She is the President of Upsilon Pi Epsilon (the computer science honor society) and is a member of both the College’s chapter of Women in Computer Science (WICS) and the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM). She also serves as a computer science tutor at the Tutoring Center, and is a part of the New Jersey Christian Fellowship chapter on campus.

Inspired by her father, who has a background in programming, Gorman took her first computer science course at the College in her first year and instantly fell in love with the field.  Although computer science being a mostly male-dominated field might have been a little frightening for a newbie female student, Gorman remembers how intimidating it was at first, but was relieved to see that the College had a more gender-balanced and welcoming department than most other schools. “I was really fortunate to be in a department where I never felt uncomfortable.”

Gorman spends approximately seven hours a week tutoring other students in computer science and says that she absolutely loves it. While she does not have a set career plan yet, being a computer science teacher is definitely at the top of her list.  Furthermore, Gorman attends the School of Science Student Advisory Board and always tries to represent her department. Also, when prospective high school students come to campus to learn more about the computer science department, Gorman often gives the tours and is always willing to sit down with students to talk to them about the major.

Although computer science was not Gorman’s first choice, she has thrived in her chosen field of study.  In one recent project in her Database Systems class, Gorman collaborated with Students Organized Against Pollution (SOAP) and looked at research to see how chemical levels fluctuated since certain pollution legislation was enacted.  Gorman also participated in a Research Undergraduate Experience (REU) at the University of Central Florida where she worked on a computer vision project in which project color descriptors are used with shape descriptors for better image description.  She earned a speech recognition award for her Python coding both semesters of her junior year and was an intern in the computer vision department at SRI International in Princeton.  She also performed research at the College with Nao, a two-foot tall humanoid robot, playing rock paper and scissors with it. (Nao beat her dad in the game, she says with a laugh.)  She was also inducted into the Phi Kappa Phi national honor society and has received computer science awards from her professors the past three years of her college career.

Kylie Gorman 2Two professors at the College, in particular, have really inspired Gorman. She conducted a majority of her research with Dr. Andrea Salgian, who was the professor of Gorman’s first computer science course. Dr. Deborah Knox, whom Gorman had for earlier computer science seminars, also had a huge impact on Gorman.  “Her level of confidence as a computer scientist has increased during her career at TCNJ, improving with each challenge she tackled,” says Knox. “Motivated to learn, Kylie is detail-oriented and willing to share her strong technical skills with others, both in a collaborative environment as well as through her role as a tutor of computer science.”

Kylie also exerts a strong work ethic outside the computer science field. As a heavily-involved member of the New Jersey Christian Fellowship, Gorman co-leads the weekly life group and during the semester meets up with her mentee Theresa Pham, a sophomore computer engineering major. Despite her stressful schedule, “Kylie is always smiling and willing to help with anything when she can,” says Pham, who is thankful that she has a mentor that is always there for her whenever she has a question or needs help with something. “She’s a sweet, caring, and intelligent person whom I look up to.  I feel very lucky to have her as a mentor.”

In addition, Gorman also attends Encounter, a weekly youth group on campus and helps out with the Vacation Bible School at her church during the summer.

As President of Upsilon Pi Epsilon (UPE), Gorman conducts all the meetings, organizes the society’s events throughout the semester, and is always encouraging participation. Just recently, UPE co-sponsored a game night with the Association of Computing Machinery featuring video games such as Super Smash Bros and Magic. UPE has also sponsored other events such as an ice cream social, a de-stressing, and a “sweets” event that allows students to take a break from all of their hard work.

But what’s next on Gorman’s agenda? She recently just scored a job at Lockheed Martin Tech Center in Atlantic City and is also hoping to complete their Master’s Program.

“I’m going to miss the community the most. Every time I go up to Forcina (the computer science building) I always know someone,” she says.

When she’s not coding or programming, Gorman loves playing soccer, having played for fourteen years before attending TCNJ.  She also enjoys playing Ultimate Frisbee as well as drawing cartoons after taking an animations class at the College as part of her IMM minor.

As Gorman gets ready to embark on the next chapter of her life, leaving behind her beloved tutoring job, computer science family, and Salmon Fridays at Eickhoff Hall, the College is welcoming another Gorman to its population – Gorman’s sister, Ally will be entering the College as part of the five-year Special Education program and will also be playing for the lacrosse team.

“I’m going to miss it here, but I’m excited for the future,” says Gorman.

– Kelly Corbett

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Brandon Gottlob ’16

Brandon Gottlob ’16

Brandon GottlobMeet Brandon Gottlob, computer science major and one of the creators of the College’s popular mobile application, TCNJ Connect. The application provides the essentials for navigating TCNJ life as a student, allowing its users to stay updated on vital campus information such as dining hours, resources, calendars, media, and emergency and healthcare options.

Gottlob became involved in the project during the spring semester of his freshman year. “Another student who was doing research for credit had initially come up with the idea for TCNJ Connect.  I kind of hopped on the project with him and helped him build it from the ground up,” he says.  Gottlob spent most of his sophomore year working on the app for the iPhone while another student worked on the Android version.

Since then, Gottlob has been completing project after project.  In his junior year, he worked on the Room Occupancy Detection System, a program allowing users to stay updated on when study rooms are available or occupied in the TCNJ Library. He proposed using a common motion detector attached to a small self-contained computer to collect data on movement in the study rooms. While the project could not be implemented due to its cost, Dr. Deborah Knox, associate professor of computer science and mentor for the project, believes Gottlob’s vision and contributions were logistically innovative.  Gottlob was able to present that research at a computer science conference in Kansas City.  During his senior year, he again partnered with Dr. Knox, using a Monte Carlo program that would simulate stock portfolio performance. Gottlob hopes to continue with this project after graduation.

During TCNJ’s Welcome Week, it was fortuitous that freshman Gottlob sat down next to Dr. Knox at the annual computer science faculty luncheon.  Gottlob spoke to her about his previous experience creating iPhone applications and inquired if there was anyone doing that at TCNJ. “The rest was history, I guess!” said Gottlob.  “If I didn’t interact with any faculty my first year, then I would probably have only had one half-year long research experience under my resume instead of three projects,” says Gottlob as he reflects on those first few days on campus which were followed by four years of research at the College.

Brandon Gottlob TCNJ Connect“What surprised me about Brandon was his ability to work with a senior designer as his peer,” says Dr. Knox. “As a freshman, Brandon had a lot to learn, but he wanted to engage at a very high level. He was motivated to learn and did a good amount of self-study to put himself at a level where he could make contributions. His level of commitment and contributions were essential to the success of the completion of TCNJ Connect.”

During his senior year, Gottlob was able to balance working on research project after research project, serving as president for two campus organizations and maintaining websites as part of his internships.

As President of both the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and the Mobile Application Development Club at TCNJ, he gets to enjoy a more social side to computing by building a community for those interested in software development.  “Coming to college I thought, ‘Okay, I’ll do computer science and sit behind my computer and make things and never have to talk to anyone.’  But getting involved in that whole social side was a lot more than what I bargained for – but in a good way.”

Brandon Gottlob 4ACM provides the opportunity for members to attend tutorials on a new programming language or platform just introduced in class. In spring 2016, the club hosted HackTCNJ, a 24-hour coding extravaganza known as a hackathon, with prizes going out for the best user experience or the funniest hack. “It’s mayhem,” says Gottlob. “It’s like 200 people hunting for food for 24 hours.”

During the summer of 2014, he interned at AmeriHealth Caritas, creating a website for the Enterprise Information Management (EIM) department. He designed and created the site independently, but says that the experience was really about learning how to gauge what EIM employees envisioned their site to look like and how to communicate with other divisions in the company in order to complete that vision.

The hard work has been followed by many accolades.  In the fall of 2014, Gottlob was one of two science majors selected as inaugural scholars for the New Jersey Governor’s STEM Scholars Program.  In spring 2015, Gottlob was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, the oldest honor society for liberal arts and sciences in the United States, which only accepts ten percent of its candidates.  Brandon Gottlob 2In his final semester, Gottlob received a Senior Award from the computer science department.  Dr. Knox, who presented the award, was sad to see her longtime student go. “It has been my privilege to work with Brandon these past four years, both in the classroom and in the research lab,” says Dr. Knox. “It was a special opportunity –-perhaps a once-in-my-career type of opportunity – to mentor an undergraduate for that span of time.”

Gottlob has officially accepted a job offer from CareKinesis in Moorestown, New Jersey, a medication management and distribution pharmacy, where he will be making software that deals with medicine prescriptions.

Brandon Gottlob 3Looking back on his four years at TCNJ, Gottlob hopes that first-year students will not be discouraged from sticking with the major because of its challenges. He can relate to the feeling of dejection when something goes wrong with a program, but he believes that problem solving is one of the most important skills for a computer science major.  His advice: “Instead of just thinking, ‘If I put this code in, my program works,’ focus on why that program works.  It will give you an understanding of the big picture and also help you become more comfortable with programming and building your own solutions.”

– Kaitlyn Njoroge

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