Here are a few comments from students who have participated in the Informatics Skunkworks.
I would highly recommend joining Informatics Skunkworks to anyone who is interested in applying computer science and machine learning to real-world scientific problems. I spent my final year at UW-Madison on the Skunkworks team and it was one of the most enriching experiences of my undergraduate career. During my time at Skunkworks, I was able to dive into interesting research problems while developing skills in data analytics and computational modeling. I was able to grow as an independent thinker and produce interesting results that will be written up into a journal publication. I plan to take this knowledge and skillset with me into my future academic and professional career.
Elliot Strand, class of ’19, 6/10/19 (Started graduate school at Univ. Colorado, Boulder Fall 2019)
I joined the Informatics Skunkworks at the beginning of my junior year and quickly began a project investigating the mechanical properties of concrete. Through this opportunity, I learned an incredible amount about the research process – from learning the fundamentals of machine learning to coding in Python and, eventually, to writing a paper. The camaraderie of the group was also a major benefit: everyone in the lab was more than willing to answer any of my questions and I greatly enjoyed talking to other members and learning about their projects. My experience with the Informatics Skunkworks fostered my interest in autonomy and artificial intelligence and led me to pursue graduate school.
Michael Hibbard, class of ’18, 8/4/18 (Started graduate school at UW-Austin Fall 2019)
I wanted to express my appreciation for the undergraduate research position your team gave me this academic year. Informatics Skunkworks has helped me learn a lot about how undergraduate research works and what is expected of researchers. I was able to build and strengthen many key skills through my work this year, such as independent working and research presenting. These skills can be used throughout the rest of my academic and professional career.
Ebenezer T. Fanibi, class of ’21 (expected), 5/4/18
Joining the Informatics Skunkworks group was one of the best decisions I made during my undergraduate career. It gave me the opportunity to learn how to do academic research in a very supportive environment, and helped me define my academic interests. I especially enjoyed learning how to apply programming skills I learned in my coursework to research questions. I won a Hilldale Undergraduate Research Fellowship for my Skunkworks project, completed my undergraduate thesis on it, and hope to publish a paper on it in an academic journal. Being exposed to the other projects in the group gave me a taste of the potential of computational methods for effectively answering all sorts of different research questions, and inspired me to look at how researchers outside of materials science use them. I intend to go to graduate school to study computational social science, and my Skunkworks experience helped me get admission to some of the top programs in the field.
Aidan Combs, class of ’19 (expected), Engineering Physics, 4/5/18
My experience working on a Skunkworks project has been very helpful in developing skills that any science or engineering student needs to function in a professional setting. Specifically, solving programming problems independently and in a group, and presenting results in a clear, concise, and convincing way. Professor Morgan and the postdoc students involved were always helpful and patient in helping me to develop these skills. The chance to get involved with the research process with no previous experience also is and will continue to be helpful in my current and future research work.
Josh Perry, class of ’20 (expected), Engineering Physics, 2/12/18
Skunkworks has been the highlight of my college career. After joining the lab my sophomore year as a materials science undergrad without any previous coding experience, I learned I love to program and switched to a computer science major. Skunkworks gave me the opportunity to learn Python, Sci-Kit Learn, neural networks, among other various data mining methods and provided the resources and mentorship to succeed. The lab taught me how to analyze data, work on a team, and how to meet expectations while also never being overwhelming. The skills I learned after a year at Skunkworks also helped me land and succeed at a summer internship. I highly recommend the program to any engineering or computer science student interested in machine learning.
Joshua Cordell, class of ’18, Computer Science, 9/29/17
Being connected with the Skunkworks lab has opened many doors and allowed me to explore and develop my interests in materials science and computer science. During the time I’ve spent with the lab, I’ve been able to develop my programming skills, make connections with a tech startup in California, and learn valuable leadership and time management skills. Professor Morgan particularly has contributed to what I’ve learned at Skunkworks by providing guidance on research tasks while still allowing me to think independently and learn from any mistakes. Working with Skunkworks has helped me find a niche on campus and define my academic interests more than any other experience at UW.
Vanessa Meschke, class of ’18, Materials Science and Engineering, 9/1/17 (graduate student at Colorado School of Mines starting 8/2019)
I spent my final year as an undergraduate joining and contributing to what would become a publication in Computational Materials Science. I was fortunate to stay after graduation as a researcher, where I could mentor new students and was even given the responsibility of managing an investigation. This experience, and being accountable for rigorous, defensible results fostered the mindset and habits that helped me to enjoy success in my work and build competitive credentials that will surely open doors for me. It is sad to say goodbye to Dr. Morgan’s tutelage and the camaraderie of the Skunkworks lab. I’m grateful for having signed up and encourage anyone with thoughts of trying it for themselves to consider the Skunkworks’ undergraduate oriented mission as they weigh their options.
Aren Lorenson, Class of ’16, Materials Science and Engineering, 6/8/17
Joining the Skunkworks was one of the most beneficial activities I did during my undergraduate career. It taught me vital programing skills including Matlab, Python, and GitHub. It also taught me how to analyze problems and formulate solutions using data analytics. Data science is going to be an invaluable skill to have into the future and is already starting to dominate many scientific, business, and health fields. The Skunkworks also gave me a great introduction to how research works at the academic level, greatly improving my resume when applying to graduate school. It directly contributed to my admission to many top graduate schools including MIT, UC-Berkeley, and Northwestern.
Zach Jensen, Class of ’17, Materials Science and Engineering, 6/4/17
Being a part of Skunkworks was one of the most valuable experience in my college life. My Skunkworks’ project was the first time I used machine learning skill in real life. The leading professor and postdoc were always patient and helpful when I met challenges, and there were lab times in which experienced team members provided help for students who just joined. I have learned a lot of technical, teamwork and communication skills in the Skunkworks, and it was a very enjoyable time. I managed to have one paper published based on the project. Furthermore, I also use this experience to build up my resume, which helped me to gain the offer from my dream technology company, Google.
Hoatian (Will) Wu, Class of ’17, Materials Science and Engineering, 5/17/17