Through funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program, School of Information Studies (iSchool) studet Terrance Andersen ’15 received the opportunity to be mentored by professor Jason Dedrick. As a research intern, Andersen contributes to an ongoing NSF-funded project led by Dedrick that studies smart grid adoption by U.S. electric utilities. Now pursuing an MS degree in information management at the iSchool, he was the sole undergraduate on a team of five students, helping to analyze, process, and visualize a set of big data on household electricity use collected over one year from some 1,000 data sources.
Having worked in the technology field for several years before pursuing a bachelor’s degree, Andersen was a 2015 recipient of the Dean’s Scholar Award, the school’s highest academic honor. This summer, he participated in the 16-day AsiaTech travel seminar before returning to his work in Professor Dedrick’s lab.
“I had never researched anything before and had no experience in it,” said Andersen. “Research is a much slower process than I thought. There’s also a lot more collaborating—the entire group sitting down and discussing different ways to analyze, maneuver, crossing the barriers of technology, and using it to our advantage so we can discover things.”
“We have meetings every Friday, and usually Professor Dedrick and I will chat at the meeting and afterward, to discuss how things are going: Is there anything I’m confused on, any questions?,” explained Andersen. “He’ll ask my advice and ideas, what I’ve learned. It’s a really smooth and integrated process. He’s very easy going and willing to be helpful all the time.”
“And there’s a Ph.D. student, Ehsan Sabaghian,” said Andersen, “who has taken me under his wing, too, and has taught me quite a bit. I helped Ehsan with an academic paper he’s writing on the project. That was a first for me. I’m going to be writing an academic paper as well, basically telling my whole REU experience.”
“I went to NSF and put in for what they call a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) grant and got that, and then interviewed several students—all impressive,” said Dedrick. “As good as they were, Terry really stood out to me. He was mature and motivated—someone who was ready to step into being part of a research team. “
“I don’t think of myself as, ‘I’m the mentor and I’m imparting wisdom,’ so much as, ‘You’re going to be part of this experience and then we’ll talk about how to interpret it—seeing what happened, what you’re learning, what questions you have,'” Dedrick explained.
“Working with Terry has made me more aware of the potential for undergraduates as researchers and has given me a bigger appreciation for the fact that undergrads can be real assets to a research project,” said Dedrick. “And in my role as associate dean for research at the iSchool, it makes me really want to encourage other faculty to work with undergrads and give them more opportunities to get involved in research.”
This article originally appeared in the Summer issue of the Syracuse University Magazine.