This week’s UROP Leader spotlight is Abelardo Riojas. Abelardo is a junior majoring in Scientific Computing & Statistics. His original hometown is Monterrey, Mexico, but would consider his other home to be Coral Springs, Florida ever since he moved there back in 2005. A fun fact that Abelardo wanted to share was that if you rearrange the letters of his first name you can spell the word ‘adorable!’ How cute.
Even though Abelardo is not currently working on any projects, he has actually just finished submitting an IDEA Grant proposal for this summer! His project is going to be focused on using Artificial Intelligence to classify people into personality types from recorded interviews. The idea is that if you look at all the dimensions of verbal and non-verbal communication (tone, cadence, word choice, facial movements, etc), and train a neural network to pick up on the emotions expressed by the subject, you can use that data to make predictions on their personality. He would say that his project is helping him be one step closer to what he wants to do with his career which is answer his own burning questions. His Neural Network personality interview project is a prime example of that. Best of luck to Abelardo and his awesome project idea!
Abelardo’s favorite part about being a UROP leader is the interactions with students. He strives to make sure his UROP colloquium class is different as he puts a lot of effort into making the students realize that research can be rewarding and fun! Abelardo said that “ it feels like we are all part of a team or friend group rather than a formal class. It’s that kind of dynamic that I feel puts me in my best mindset and keeps the students the most engaged. One important thing I teach my students is, if you do not understand something, do not get intimidated or discouraged. It should only push you harder! Figure. It. Out. Barriers are meant to be overcome, and you must face what you do not understand to build confidence. Become the ‘Master Googler” as I say in class!”
And to any student currently not involved with academic research. Here is what Abelardo said: “UROP is the best steppingstone to take if you actively want to be part of the research community. You can always do a research project independently, but UROP helps you build connections and has someone ‘who has done this type of thing’ before helping you with every step of the process. You get valuable, top-of-the-resume, experience that can help you secure an eventual DIS, Honors Thesis, or Global Scholars opportunity, to name a few. If you like the work that you are doing, you can choose to continue it through those other avenues. UROP helps you get your foot through the hardest doors, essentially. It’s worth your time.”