First Student Speaker Opens Arts and Sciences Seminar Series
Friday, March 19th, 2010
On Feb. 11, Lawrence Tech senior Paul Downen opened this year’s College of Arts and Sciences Seminar Series. He is the first student to give a talk in the series, which has featured faculty from the College of Arts and Sciences and outside speakers.
The talk, titled “Opening the Black Box: Profiling Computer Memory,” was about his research in the summer of 2009 at a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) at Harvey Mudd College in California.
He explained how programs use data and discussed methods for examining the actual behavior of memory in computers, showing why “some programs eat up all your RAM and grind your computer to a halt.” The team he worked with developed more robust and informative methods of profiling the memory usage of programs. They also made some initial advances into visualizing and discovering properties of real-world programs.
Downen fielded many questions during his talk and afterward with aplomb and then discussed his experience at the summer research program. He worked in a group of several students under one of the principal researchers, Melissa O’Neill. While they worked intensely most of the time, they did get to take some field trips.
The REU program is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), and students are paid a stipend. Downen said it was comparable to what he could make during a summer job, and he would choose the invaluable experience of REU any time. It gave him the flavor of what he would be doing in graduate school. The group is working on getting a paper on their research ready for publication.
Downen is a senior, graduating in May as a triple major in mathematics, computer science, and computer engineering. He plans to attend graduate school in computer science in the fall.