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Summer research students advance artificial intelligence

July 30, 2012

  • CC image courtesy of slightly-less-random (Flickr)
    slightly-less-random Flickr

At Lewis & Clark, summer doesn’t necessarily mean vacation. Many students spend up to 40 hours a week doing collaborative research with faculty each summer.

Jet’aime Mullins ’13 and Nick Sylvester ’13 are working alongside Associate Professor of Computer Science Peter Drake on research surrounding computer performance in abstract strategy games. In this Q&A, Sylvester and Mullins reflect on the value of these experiences.

What are you researching this summer?

Mullins: We are working to create an [artificial intelligence] player that can beat the best players in the game of Go. Currently there is no program that can.

Sylvester: This is the third summer I have been working on this project, and we continue to research the game of Go. Unlike chess, where computers can beat the best human professionals, professional Go players completely dominate any computer. We would like to make computers more competitive against human players.

How do you think student-faculty collaboration has impacted your education?

Sylvester: I have really enjoyed working with Peter Drake on this research. It is nice to work with a professor, as opposed to doing work for them in a class. I have learned a lot of things that I would not have learned otherwise.

How do you hope your experiences this summer will impact your future studies or professional pursuits?

Sylvester: All jobs have some degree of teamwork involved, so my experiences will definitely benefit me in the future even if it does not involve research or computer science.

Mullins: I hope that this research will help me prepare me for a job in the computer science department as well as help me with my enrollment in graduate school.

How did you decide to attend Lewis & Clark?

I visited several colleges in the area but found L&C to have by far the most beautiful campus. I also really enjoyed Portland when I visited and thought that living in a bigger city would be fun.


About the program

The John S. Rogers Science Research Program allows students to participate in graduate-level research with an emphasis on strengthening their communication skills by requiring them to present their findings. This summer, 40 students are pursuing topics that range from cybersecurity to spider venom, and zebrafish to magnetic fields. Working closely with peers and faculty members, students undertake research questions and present their work in two public venues.

“We’re not asking you anymore, ‘What’s the answer,’ we’re saying ‘What’s the question,” said Michael Broide, director of the Rogers Program and chair of the physics department. “I think what sets our program apart is that regardless of what project you are on, we’re all going to come together as a group to present what we’re doing in as accessible a way as possible. In science, it’s such an important skill to be able to explain cogently what you’re doing.”

Students make their final research presentation at the Rogers Summer Science Poster session, held in conjunction with the Science Without Limits Symposium. Scheduled for September 18, the poster session is free and open to the public.


Zibby Pillote ’14 contributed to this story.

Opportunities in Science at Lewis & Clark


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