Episode Notes | Episode Transcript | AskTheGuest

 Hi Fives (5 Highlights)   2.5-Minute Listen

As an undergraduate student at Grand Valley State University in Michigan, Ian Curtis shares his undergraduate experience. Ian is pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Statistics and French.

In High School Ian was constantly exploring. He took a number of different classes to figure out what he liked and didn’t like. He loved Math, French. He enjoyed being part of the crew in Theater. He was involved in the Orchestra.

When he was applying to college, he didn’t even know that Research was a thing!

Hi-Fives from the Podcast are:

  1. Overall Grand Valley Experience
  2. Why Grand Valley?
  3. 1700s French Encyclopedia Research
  4. Impact of Research
  5. Advice for High Schoolers

Episode Notes

Episode Title: Ian Curtis of Grand Valley State University: Stats & French, UG Research and A History Game.

In High School Ian was constantly exploring. He took a number of different classes to figure out what he liked and didn’t like. He loved Math, French. He enjoyed being part of the crew in Theater. He was involved in the Orchestra.

When he was applying to college, he didn’t even know that Research was a thing!

Ian joins our podcast to share his undergraduate college journey at Grand Valley, his UG Research experiences, and Advice for college-bound students.

In particular, we discuss the following with him:

  • Overall Grand Valley Experience
  • UG Research
  • Impact of UG Research
  • Advice to High Schoolers

Topics discussed in this episode:

  • Introduction to Ian Curtis, GVSU [0:43]
  • Hi Fives - Podcast Highlights [1:50]
  • Overall Grand Valley Experience [4:14]
  • Why Grand Valley? [5:24]
  • High School Interests [7:03]
  • Research By Accident [9:40]
  • 1700’s French Encyclopedia [13:33]
  • Detecting Censorship [19:53]
  • Other Kinds of UG Research [21:20]
  • Music Recommendation Algorithm [23:59]
  • Impact of UG Research [27:05]
  • Choosing Stat & French as Majors [31:34]
  • Language-Culture Study [34:58]
  • What Next? [36:47]
  • Advice for Freshman [38:22]
  • Skills for High Schoolers [42:19]
  • Memories [45:42]

Our Guest: Ian Curtis is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Statistics and French at Grand Valley State University.

Memorable Quote: “I'm promoting research on campus because I hope it kind of demystifies the idea of research is like this, you must be an expert to research, and you must know what you're doing, and you must have it perfect and all laid out. That's just not how it works in any research project”. Ian Curtis.

Episode Transcript: Please visit Episode’s Transcript.

Similar Episodes: College Experiences , UG Research


Episode Transcript

Transcript of the episode’s audio.

Ian C  0:14

I did a bunch of research I added in I wrote my own two characters based off of historical historical characters, wrote them into the game, I wrote a whole new conflict into the game. Another storyline that could go wrong or just add a little bit of motion there to make it more exciting.

Venkat  0:43  [Introduction to Ian Curtis, Grand Valley State U]

That is Ian Curtis, who is pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Statistics and French at the Grand Valley State University in Michigan.

Hello! I am your host Venkat Raman.

In High School Ian was constantly exploring.

He took a number of different classes to figure out what he liked and didn’t like.

He loved Math, French.

He enjoyed being part of the crew in Theater.

He was involved in the Orchestra.

WHen he was applying to College he didn’t even know that Research was a thing!

Venkat Raman 1:23

Ian joins our podcast to share his undergraduate college journey at Grand Valley, his UG Research experiences, and Advice for college-bound students.

Venkat Raman  1:36

Before we jump into the podcast, here are the High-Fives,  Five Highlights from the podcast:

Ian C  1:50  [Highlights - Hi Fives]

[Overall Grand Valley Experience]

I am really enjoying everything that's going on. With my experience at Grand Valley. I've got a wide variety of things I'm interested in and groups and opportunities I've had. There's there's definitely good experience for me here.

[Why Grand Valley?]

I also was fortunate enough to get a good amount of scholarships to help me go in there so that that definitely played a role in my decision. It definitely wasn't the only thing driving it. But that that certainly was involved in why I ended up going to Grand Valley.

[1700’s French Encyclopedia Research]

My professor was, he still is very interested in this encyclopedia. In in the idea of censorship, what is censorship and plagiarism and all the research that's been going on into this encyclopedia. And I, I was amazed that this encyclopedia, just one publication could be so full of things to research to talk about.


[Impact of Research]

Writing, my writing skills, I don't like writing. I don't like writing at all. But what I've learned is that I don't mind it when I'm writing about something I enjoy. Yeah, when it's a topic that I chose a project that I developed myself well, I don't mind writing about that. Well, I've learned something about myself there.

[Advice for High Schoolers]

Yeah, and I think some basic advice after that is Do try, try hard in the classes. And that's how you figure out what, what you like and what you don't like. I put in, put in the effort to really see if there's certain subjects that I liked. I found some I didn't really like, I found some I did.

Venkat Raman  3:45

These were the Hi5s, brought to you by College Matters. Alma Matters.

Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.

Venkat Raman  3:56

Now, I'm sure you want to hear the entire podcast with Ian.

So without further ado, here is Ian Curtis!


Venkat Raman  4:05  

So maybe the best place to start is to give us kind of an overall impression of your experience at Grand Valley so far. And then we can get into the details.

Ian C  4:14  [Overall Grand Valley Experience]

Sure. I, I really enjoy Grand Valley it's a, it's a beautiful campus. They've got just a lot of open space, a lot of outdoor places to sit and to do homework and I really liked that and even in the winter you don't really sit outside but it looks really pretty fall off trees. So I I really liked that about the just the ambiance of the campus. But even the, the courses I'm taking to theirs, they're really relevant. They're full of information and professors are very nice and they know what they're talking about. So I am really enjoying everything that's going on with my I experience at Grand Valley. I've got a wide variety of things. I'm interested in groups and opportunities I've had. So there's there's definitely a good experience for me here. Overall.

Venkat Raman  5:19  

Little bit about why you picked Grande Valley. How did you end up there?

Ian C  5:24  [Why Grand Valley?]

Well, one of the main things that I went on is that it's, it's close to home, but not not too close to home. It's kind of what I was, it's about a half an hour away from where I live. So I was able to, I could live on campus, I could be away from home. But if I needed anything, I would be close enough that I could get help if I needed it.

But I also when I visited Grand Valley, what really struck me was I mentioned the ambiance of the campus. Yeah, definitely was is a part of it. But the students I talked to you the professor's I talked to you were all about, like, it's, there's a big population of students. It's pretty big campus, but it's a small, it's small field. Yeah, it really feels like you're in a community. And I really do feel like that now. But I felt like that right from the get go, that once you enter in there, you're going to be part of a community of people that whether that's in your major or in your interests.

So that that feeling I got really led me towards Grand Valley, as well. And I also was fortunate enough to get a good amount of scholarships to help me go in there. So that that definitely played a role in my decision. It definitely wasn't the only thing driving it. But that that certainly was involved in why I ended up going to Grand Valley. But yeah, I don't regret my choice. I stuck with my feelings. And it's definitely turned out well for me.

Venkat Raman  6:58  

You talked about interest. So what kind of things were you interested in, in high school?

Ian C  7:03  [High School Interests]

In high school a little bit different I somewhat my interest now. But I did a lot of work in theater, in high school. And not too much in acting. But I was pretty involved in the backstage work on doing set construction and being behind the scenes during the show working on a whiteboard and all of that. I also did a did a couple shows in the pit orchestra, which was really fun. High School, I also was involved in orchestra, I still am now but it definitely was.

A big interest of mine is like getting into staying involved in music, very music oriented. But a lot of my interests in high school, were just figuring out what I was interested in. Yeah, taking random classes to kind of see what what I wanted to do what I what I liked. And so that's why some of those random classes I've taken in high school kind of merged together and became what I wanted to pursue in college.

Venkat Raman  8:08  

Did you have any specific courses you really liked while you were in high school?

Ian C  8:14  

Yeah, I did some AP courses. So I, I'm a math guy. So not a lot of people are, but I am. So A lot, all of my math courses I took very interesting to me, I took AP Calculus, had a fantastic teacher really helped explain things really nice. So with great examples, so I that helped me enjoy the class even more. So I took calc one and two, and then I took AP Stats, also a great teacher. And that that that AP stat course was how I really decided that statistics was the way I wanted to go. In my in my future. So though, I would say those math courses were really good. A bunch of other ones.

I did some French courses in high school with probably the best teacher I've ever had ever. I owe her a lot and she's done a lot for me. So that was a key decision factor in me pursuing French further as well. Like I said, a lot of I'm interested in a lot of different subjects. So a lot of the random ones, they accept some psychology ones that human biology, all super interesting to me, but I think the math and the French ones really stand out.

Venkat Raman  9:33  

So then, you know, you come to Grand Valley, you know how, how did you get into research?

Ian C  9:40  [Research By Accident]

By accident, actually. I didn't really know that research was a thing. Especially for undergraduates. So Grand Valley has this. This event called the Undergraduate Research fair, essentially is this When all the departments on campus come into one central location, and they're just there to share opportunities for undergraduates, what, what professors are looking for. And someone had mentioned the event to me, and I was like, okay, that'd be pretty cool. I guess I'll, I'll take a visit. There's free food. So that's a nice little benefit.

And I walked around to the math table. That's what I was interested in. At the time. I hadn't quite switched over to Stats yet, but I was in math in the math mode. And just started getting in a conversation with them. Like, what, what is research? What does it look like? When I thought of research, I was thinking of laboratories and pipettes and I was like, Okay, how do you how do you do research in mathematics? And so as I was talking with them, they were they were really encouraging me to participate in research, but they were telling me that I probably should have a little bit more experience in the basic math math courses. Before starting, Okay, that's fair. That's fair.

So I walked to the French table, which is, which is my other other degree at the time? Yeah. And my current professor was on the sheet of looking looking for research help. I was like, okay, that's fun. I have this dude, as my professor. And he's looking for research. I can just approach him in class. Yeah, characters, asked him what, what he's interested in and what, what? What help he needs. And I did that work, worked out pretty well. I set up a meeting with him. He explained me he was interested. And I said, I'm interested in that, too. Yeah, we started setting up some research plans, research projects. So a little bit of a circle there.

But I got to I kind of say, by accident, because I wasn't intending on starting research in French. Yeah, but it happened and it worked out.

Venkat Raman  12:10  

Now, two questions. Was this in the freshman year? Or was it later?

Ian C  12:17  

Yeah, this was my first semester

Venkat Raman  12:19  

was the very first semester. And And now, you seem to have pursued it. Now, What was it about research that intrigued you? I mean, before you even got started, what was it that you think was driving you? Was it just curiosity?

Ian C  12:38  

I think that was a major part of it. I wanted to do something with my knowledge. And yeah, that's something that I'm definitely going to be doing in a job later on. Sure. And I was, as I was thinking about a time I was like, Well, what if? What if I can do something now? Right? Instead of just sitting here learning, learning, learning? How would I learn and do at the same time and already get the some of the skills I would need later on? I felt like that was going to really put me ahead of the game in a lot of different areas. So I wanted to learn more, I wanted to help out professor with the research and also see what I can do for myself to help myself out in the future.

Venkat Raman  13:27  

So what did you do? What kind of stuff did you start out with? When you started doing research in French?

Ian C  13:33  [1700’s French Encyclopedia]

Yeah, this is got a lot of stuff I've done. So this is a Yeah, I like to share with try not to get too much in the details, but still explain a lot of what I've done. So I've done multiple research projects with the same professor. His name is Dr. David Eick, He's a specialist in the 18th century, the 1700s of French history.

There was a large 28 volume, Encyclopedia published at this time. This is a during a time of French monarchy. So there's a lot of censorship going on. A lot of things that get published get burned, or you can get jailed for saying something that's against the church or against the monarchy. Yeah, so you really got to be careful about what you publish. And this encyclopedias goal was to represent all knowledge, which is a very lofty goal. Yeah.

But what's key is that included in all of that knowledge is some of the more controversial things like questioning authorities and talking back against the church and you know that what made this whole encyclopedia very controversial at the time, and so my professor was, he still is very interested in this encyclopedia. And in the idea of censorship, what is censorship and plagiarism and all All the research that's been going on into this encyclopedia and I, I was amazed that this encyclopedia, just one publication could be so full of things to research, to talk about.

And as I've gone on, there's I've seen that there has been many articles and books and book chapters written on this encyclopedia, and there's so much more we could do. So I was, I got sucked in, totally interested in it.

My first research project that I did was that summer, summer 2020. So that was my right after my freshman year. Yeah. I did a project with the Grand Valley Library. So this project had two goals, I had to learn about the library, and libraries in general. So this is like library services and research skills and critical things that are necessary for to make libraries function. And the other goal was I had to produce some original project that helped out libraries somehow. And it was intentionally broad, you can basically find what you're interested in and make something helpful, essentially, is what this was. So I got assigned a university librarian, my name is Amber, dear King, super nice woman, and very helped me out helped me out very much with the with the library side of things like how do I, how do I research it? If I'm looking for something? Where do I look? And it's much more than just going to Google? Yeah, yeah, there's, there's a lot more to it.

So my mentor is very, very helpful in that. And to help develop those skills. I'm very happy that I did this project before some of my later projects, because it really helped solidify these basic research skills that I didn't know were necessary, but definitely are.

And so the project that I chose to do was researching this French encyclopedia that I professor and I had talked about, yeah, I was, didn't really know what I was doing at first.

So I just started researching, looking at what articles were out there that had been published. And my project came up, as I was doing that, I noticed that these resources were all over the place, or somewhere on 20 different websites or different books that were in different libraries. And, to me, I was like, Okay, that's a problem. I want to be able to search for something and have them all come up in a central location. Yeah, I feel like that'd be helpful, for me personally be helpful for future and current and past researchers who are looking for a scholarship on this encyclopedia. So I decided to make that central location. I wasn't able to do all sources. There are lots of articles written on this encyclopedia. But I took a bunch that I had seen. I read them all the way through and I made an annotated bibliography of I don't remember how many there were now but a very decent amount of articles. And I put them all on a PDF and made it searchable. I use what I had learned, and I typed up some instructions for people on what's the best way to search this? How do you use search skills to search my resource.

And that annotated bibliography was, is published online, and then I turned it into a website, which is also searchable. So that is also online. This project, that I had noticed that there was not a central location for these, these resources. And I turned it into something that hopefully will be beneficial for people in the future, listing out all these resources that they can use with keywords and key terms.

Venkat Raman  19:08  

Awesome. I had a tangential question. It's not quite what I thought about talking about one of the questions you did one of the things you mentioned, which kind of intrigued me is, you mentioned that there was a lot of censorship, and how does one go about sort of finding the content that was censored? Because in theory, if things came out and power published, they were probably censored material. Now. Could you tell what was what slipped through the cracks or in the, in the encyclopedia, for example?

Ian C  19:50  

Oh, sure.

Venkat Raman  19:51  

Is there a way to do that?

Ian C  19:53  [Detecting Censorship]

They're what some of it is a little bit of guesswork in a way. Sure. Oh, You have to, you're reading the article and you you It's thinking of would this really be accepted in the time? Probably not. Some things we actually know we have historical record that somebody wrote down this, this this specific article was the reason this was censored. And there's a as I was going through, when I was reading some of them, there's a professor has developed a role playing game about this encyclopedia, and some of the, the censored articles are in this game. And so I've been able to read them. And when you know that they've been censored, you can pick out the parts that are scandalous that they wouldn't be now, but at the time, right? Well, clearly this is against the Catholic Church. So this this article would have been censored or would have been one of the reasons why this work was attempted to be shut down. Yeah, it's definitely, it's very interesting to see what, what did and what didn't. And there's also, there's quite a few things that the censors completely missed articles that didn't get censored, but probably should have at the time.

Venkat Raman  21:12  

So tell me a little bit more about other types of research you did? And then I want to kind of have you reflect on what it's done for you.

Ian C  21:20  [Other Kinds of UG Research]

Yeah, sure. I've got to see, it's got a couple more projects i Sure.

I worked on. So I mentioned the role playing game and professor had started to write he co wrote it with a colleague. And it's basically students reenact historical rules, it's called Reacting to the Past, starting to gain gain popularity in colleges and universities.

The goal is to just adopt different perspectives, you get assigned to a character, you have to try and act like that character. Based off of historical data. It doesn't mean you have to follow history, but it just means that you have to try and act like them. And then you do, you reenact the debates of the time.

So my professor has written this game that I've played. And he just places you right in the middle of the writing of this encyclopedia. And so I did a project with him to help expand that, that game. What I did was, I edited the edited the mitad, a lot better, flows better, because I was adding a student perspective to the game.

And my professor always taught the game, he wasn't ever usually playing it. Yeah, and, and then also, during this time, I did a bunch of research, I added in, I wrote my own two characters based off of historical historical characters, wrote them into the game, I wrote a whole new conflict into the game, another storyline that could go wrong, or just add a little bit of motion there to make it more exciting.

And that game right now is being played tested around the country.

Colleges and universities are trying it out giving us feedback. I think it's being tested in Canada as well. And I consider that a really cool opportunity to work on my professors project, but also be able to be to have contributed to it as well. I'm not I'm not technically an author on this, this project. But I my name, I believe is on there as a contributor. So I, I enjoyed that project. I think that it's really cool to have been involved in that.

Venkat Raman  23:47  

So when did you do something in Stat, I mean, you said you were going to come back to it when you had some more courses under your belt. So how about a couple of math slash Stat kind of things?

Ian C  23:59  [Music Recommendation Algorithm]

For sure. Um, the main one, I'm working on Stats right now, I probably am going to have to push that into my master's degree. But I did do a it. Was this winter semester, winter 2022. I did a more, it was more of a computer science kind of thing. I coded my own algorithm for recommending new songs to Spotify users. I was able to use Spotify as public data. And basically, a user can log in. And my question I was trying to ask was, if you give a user a say in how the recommendations are created, does that make them more satisfied with the final results? Sure. It's a major, a major thing that Spotify and other music platforms and things all over Amazon anywhere that needs to recommend things the biggest challenge is what do you recommend? So how do you know what to recommend to somebody else? Right? And I was, I was thinking about well, what if? What if we focus the question more on? How do we know the recommendations are good? Yeah, even if you give somebody maybe a mediocre recommendation, if they know that they had a direct role in determining that, will that make them happier with it? So I created this algorithm. And I designed it in a way that it could be used in future research applications. I built in a bunch of different research experimental groups with different using different a few different features, different distance metrics, different ways of calculating recommendations. And I didn't have time to actually run an experiment myself. It's, it's available for the public to use to try and determine what out of the groups are created, what is the best one that gives the most satisfaction of recommendations. And in the future, if I have time, I would love to continue this project. Because that's really where I think this that side of things would come in is collecting the data, analyzing the data coming out with some trends and visualizations to see what what is it what what makes the recommendations be good, good enough for people.

Venkat Raman  26:36  

So you know, you've had some really interesting set of projects, and learnings. And obviously, you've been extremely creative, and the kind of guy that loves creating new stuff. So how, how has all this impacted you what, you know, if you were to look at your younger self, entering college, and now how do you think research has changed you?

Ian C  27:05  [Impact of UG Research]

I, it's changed me quite a bit. I talked about some stereotypical skills you get from research. You know, I try to stay away from you're gonna learn this and this and this.

But honestly, those skills are the things that have really stuck with me things like time management. There's one project that didn't quite mention, but it was my one of my biggest projects I did wrote a big essay on plagiarism in this encyclopedia, and I had a big setback. So I had to be able to manage what I was doing what I had planned, and I only had a summer, three months. So I that was huge, and trying to plan out an outline of what my project was going to look like. And also managing what the setbacks were I had a big one turns out I had turned, realized that my project was already been done. So my notes, and I haven't found it yet. And I had to change gears pretty pretty drastically on what my goal was. And at that time, I hadn't built that into my outline, I didn't plan in any setbacks into my outline. So it definitely taught me a bunch on how to manage that time is to build in something, building time for any problems or errors. That's definitely something key.

 Writing my writing skills, I don't like writing. I don't like reading at all. But what I've learned is that I don't mind it when I'm writing about something I enjoy. Yeah. When it's a topic that I chose a project that I developed myself, well, I don't mind writing about that. So I've learned something about myself there. Yeah, I feel like another thing I've learned is just communication in general, using using jargon from the field to communicate to those in the field, but also being able to communicate that research to people who have no idea what you're talking about. Yeah, and that's something that the Grand Valley programs really try to emphasize is you got to communicate this to anybody to whoever thinks is important. It's developing your your communication to your audience.

The research skills, things like how to search how to access a database. Note Taking, pulling out the necessary information, not spending three hours on one paragraph, right. And then of course presentation, I've an almost all of my projects I've given a presentation on some of them are posted presentations. So poster designing skills, poster presentation, a couple of them were recorded presentations. I haven't quite yet made it to a conference to give a real presentation. Grand Valley does have a conference fund to pay you to send you to conferences. So I'm looking to perhaps be doing that helped get that in person presentation skills up as well.

And then I think that the other thing, too, is incorporating feedback. All of my projects have been with a mentor, which is a faculty mentor, which is key. And of course, they they give constructive feedback. And it's really been a journey for me to figure out how to read feedback and how to accept or reject it. In deciding, okay, yeah, I'm going to accept this feedback, I'm going to make some modifications, or No, I don't really agree with this feedback, but I see where they're coming from, but I'm not going to not going to take it into consideration. That's really, I feel like that has things like that have implications beyond just pure research. It's yeah, it moves way beyond into a career or a graduate degree or wherever, wherever life is gonna lead you.

Venkat Raman  31:09  

Now, I want to switch topics and talk about your majors. I mean, you were pretty set on what you wanted to do. You kind of stuck with it. Mostly. Right Stats, and French, I guess it was math, which, how did math become stat? I mean, how did that happen? You can shed some light on that,

Ian C  31:34  [Choosing Stat & French as Majors]

For sure. Yeah, like I mentioned, the calculus in high school was really enjoyable to me, teacher helped helped really make that happen. And so before, I was like, this is one going into, it's going to be math, I love math. And I got to college, I loved it. I was math major, really enjoyed it. But I had to take a stats course, as well as part of the math major there. And as I was taking the stats course, and I was also being reminded of what I had taken an AP Stats in high school. And I, it's hard to describe, but I was it's kind of like a transition happened where I, I just started feeling like I preferred the stats area of things, the more applied the more analytical side of things. And that's, I still enjoy math I do. I just when I made the switch I made, I still have a math minor. Because I still enjoy the pure mathematics side of things. I think it's been beneficial also to understand more of the theory behind the stats. But that's that's major came about from just me taking some classes and deciding that what I what I was learning about in those classes where I was more passionate about things, and what I had already thought I wanted to do, which is great. I think it's great that I it's flexible enough that I can change that. Sure. Yeah, so I'm now a stat, stat major.

Venkat Raman  33:14  

Now, how do you how do you see stats and French sort of creating a superpower or super combo?

Ian C  33:26  

Yeah, I basically, they started as just two things that I was interested in. I loved French love stats and math, so I was going to be pursuing them both in college. And as I've gone through, I've realized how important interdisciplinary learning is. In the real world, there's a lot from what I've been able to, to get to learn is that the real world is not just divisions of fields, there's lots of crossovers and stats in French is a little bit of a wide division there but I would love to win by learning French I feel like it's opening my doors to analyze maybe datasets that are in France, the French come from some French speaking countries. I I would love to go to France or go to a French speaking country in Canada and work there for some time. Sure, or if anything at all. I would love to be part of a international relations team at wherever company I decided to end up and do do some do statistics, whatever that is at the job but be able to communicate to partners overseas or something like that. Yeah, I I want to find a way to combine it. I think those are going to be the some of the ways that I can make it happen.

Venkat Raman  34:58  [Language-Culture Study]

You know, one of the Other things that intrigued me about the encyclopedia project that you did is that, you know, it just happened to be a French, and encyclopedia. But you know, whatever you perform there in terms of research and understanding of, you know, the culture, the, you know, the censorship at that time, or whether it was about monarchy or religion. I mean, you could take that to pretty much any other language and apply those kinds of skills, right? I mean, for sure, it's an awesome way to learn about, you know, a period, a period in history that you might be intrigued by or interested in. So, so I think, you know, I just find, you've got some great opportunities out there. And so, it's really great to see how you jumped ahead and took advantage of it.

Ian C  35:56  

Yeah. That just kind of led me where I basically been following the train of one discovery after another just keeps leading me forward and pulling me forward. And just next, opportunities pop up randomly, and like, oh, yeah, that'll work out. I'll go down here for now and see what happens. Yeah,

Venkat Raman  36:14  

yeah. And I think the other part that you didn't mention is having an open mind, right? Don't have a preconceived notion of where a research ought to take you are. Right, you do have some, you do have some plans. But really, you want to be flexible.

Venkat Raman  36:34  

So where are you headed? I mean, you're a senior now, right? Yes, I am. So you know, what happens after you graduate? What's next?

Ian C  36:47  [What Next?]

I know for sure, I am going to be returning to Grand Valley for a master's degree in data science and analytics. So that's going to add add computer science skills to my stats, side data scientists like the combination of statistics and computer science. Yeah, that's, that's a big thing of what I'm interested in right now. So I'm definitely going to be doing that.

And then I'm pretty sure. Not quite confident on my decision yet, I'm pretty sure I'm going to also go on to a PhD in computer science itself, just to follow, I would love to focus on machine learning. That's a really big aspect of computer science that I'm not entirely familiar with yet. And I would love to learn more, because it's key in a lot of different fields, especially in producing recommendations. So I feel like that's a decision that's going to come a little bit later on down the road, but it's definitely in my mind that that's a possibility and something that I'm I am considering at this time.

Venkat Raman  38:01  

Switching gears a bit. With all this experience behind you or with you, how would you or what would you advise a freshman about research? What kind of things would you recommend he or she do? What's the step on campus?

Ian C  38:22  [Advice for Freshman]

I, I think the first thing I would do is break the stereotypes. If there I didn't know very much about research when I entered in, in college level one in high school. And what I didn't know or what I thought I knew was that it happens in a lab. It happens in lab coats, you're using pipettes and petri dishes. That's what research is in medical research. Yeah. That's one of the that's certainly research I that that is definitely counts, but there's so much else that counts as research to other than being in a lab.

I've got friends who've done research in art or in music. So it's definitely possible to do research and whatever you are passionate about. And following with passionate I think that another great piece of advice is to follow your passions. What you like, is what you're going to want to do researching is what you're going to want to pursue later don't I warned against doing research and things you don't like because that's gonna that's gonna kind of ruin that experience for you.

But definitely, you mentioned having an open mind that is key to doing anything with research. It you fight you ask questions, got to ask questions. If the if something comes back and the answer is I don't know or Well, that depends. And you are fascinated in that. That is a great place to go. Yeah. It You turn it into something that you want it to be. That's what's so great that I like about research is that it's customizable.

I developed, I created and came up with the ideas for a lot of my projects, just because I wanted to I was interested in it. And I asked a question, and the answer was, well, I don't really know. So I set to try and find an answer.

Yeah. And I think another key piece of information for for freshmen is that you certainly don't have to do this alone. I know what Grande Valley probably most if not all, other colleges and universities, there's an entire office devoted just to undergraduate research. And you have faculty at your professors can can help connect you, with the with, with other faculty who are interested in the same things as you. This is not another thing that I I just created myself, I was like, Yes, I'm going to do this somebody helped me, it came as a result of many a buildup of many different questions asked, and small research projects and inquiries. And, I mean, at the end, I have I have some projects that I'm proud of, and I get to shown to the world. But yeah, really, I think when it comes down to it is to don't, don't follow the stereotypes of what research is make it your own thing, and make it your own thing by what you are passionate about.

Venkat Raman  41:29  

And I guess the other part you would tell them is to start early, right? Yes. Don't wait,

Ian C  41:33  

don't wait. Yes, that is key.

Venkat Raman  41:39  

What would you tell your high school self I mean, in terms of skills, or things you might want to try out or play with? I understand that. You know, some people, I think in your case, you had the beginnings of passion, or maybe you had the passion for math, and then French kind of liked it. When you were in school, you are a great teacher. For folks, some you know, a lot of people are not blessed in that sense, right? They don't have the passion, they have to discover it. So anyway, long winded way of asking, What do you think high schoolers should be doing to get ready to do research?

Ian C  42:19  [Skills for High Schoolers]

And yeah, that's definitely I do also recognize that not everybody has that, that strike of, like, this is what I want to do. And I think that, knowing that that is totally fine. Yeah, is, is key. You do not have to know what you want to do what you're passionate about.

For day one of college. I, I'd like to I when I was in high school, I kind of used it as a testing ground or you took the core classes, find some fun, some things I liked in the core classes, but I was testing on a few electives to kind of see, you know, is this really something I might want to pursue later on.

And then especially for juniors and seniors in high school, I would recommend for the colleges you are considering see if there's a research office at that at that college, maybe even reach out to them and say, Hey, I'm I'm a junior, I'm a senior what does research look like at your at your school? That's something I wish I had done because I didn't know research even existed as an undergraduate that that was even a possibility not even in my head when I was in high school, I was just concentrating on putting my applications in and making it there. Right.

But just a little bit step ahead of that is well what are you going to do once you get there and research is a great thing. So I think reaching out to research offices, even just the librarian at the school, figuring out what what you can do and especially if you don't really have a subject that you're quite passionate and there's an opportunity for that as well of trying of helping you find what it is you want to research.

Yeah, and I think some basic advice after that is Do try try hard in the classes and that's how you figure out what what you like and what you don't like. I put in, put in the effort to really see if there's certain subjects that I liked. I found some I didn't really like I found some I did. And then I want to stress again like you don't have to have your life figured out. I certainly I did not I had an idea of where I was going to go and I've changed it up as I mentioned I even just about a year ago I added a psychology minor just because I liked it and I wanted to I didn't I was not planning on that at all.

And I just did it and that's also good is about colleges that there is some flexibility. Once you get here. You You can decide on something you want to pursue and completely change it up. There's Something that you want to pursue even more. Yeah, I think I think that those are the key. Key advice. I think I wish I had known that I would totally give to high schools now.

Venkat Raman  45:13  

That's great. You know, you figured out things well yourself, so I wouldn't worry too much about that.

Venkat Raman  45:24  

Okay, so and we are starting to wind down. Before we do that, I wanted to give you a chance to maybe share some memory or anecdote or vignette from your college experience so far, or your research experience, whatever you feel, might be interesting to share.

Ian C  45:42  [Memories]

Yeah, I didn't mention earlier the setback I had when I discovered my research project had been done a couple of decades ago. And I feel like that's super important to share, because research project is not always smooth and perfect. Yeah. When I say I freaked out, I freaked out a little bit. So I had spent months preparing the proposal for this project and you getting getting materials ready and getting supplies and all of that, in turn, come to find out that it had already been done. Yeah, and but what I call my professor help, need help. And he was really great at showing me how to manage how to get through that how to turn what I had already proposed into something that I could still do. Yeah, and still be in my scope of time, in my scope of what I was interested in. And that I think was really important to, For to me, to see that. It doesn't just go research, it doesn't just happen. Yeah, it can come with things that are a little bit trouble. That comes from troubles. Things that you don't expect. And I don't know, I wasn't planning on that slot back when I was going into this project. And what I know now is that I need to plan for that. Something, it might not, you might not have a problem. And it might be great. But yeah, and it's definitely important to think about what what could go wrong, and how you might come about to fix it. So I I really like to tell that story to other people. I'm promoting research to on campus because I hope it kind of demystifies the idea of research is like this, you must be an expert to research and you must be know what you're doing. And you must have it perfect and all laid out. That's that's just not how it works in, in any research project, there's going to be some sort of probably going to be a setback or some thing that happens that you're gonna have to manage. And I I'm glad I had that experience as an undergrad, and not like in in the job where I was surprised and shocked. So now I know at least I know that this is a thing that could happen and have some some experience in fixing it.

Venkat Raman  48:22  

That's a great, that's a great story. Thanks for sharing that. So, Ian, this has been a fascinating conversation. Very impressed with all the work you've been doing. And I'm sure there's a lot lot more to come. So we'll keep in touch before right now. Take care. Be safe. Thank you so much.

Ian C  48:44  

Thank you. It's great to great to be here

Venkat Raman  48:47  

sure. Thanks. Bye.

Ian C  48:49  



Venkat  48:55  [Close]

Hi again!

Hope you enjoyed our podcast with Ian Curtis on his undergraduate journey at Grand Valley State University.

Ian’s Grand Valley experience is a lesson using Research to discover what you like, while creating new knowledge.

He found UG Research by accident.

But once he did, he didn’t let go.

He really combined his need to explore with undergraduate research.

He dug into censorship and plagiarism in the 18th century French Encyclopedia.

He augmented a History game with his Professor,  created a Music Recommendation algorithm and more.

I hope you find Ian’s story inspiring and you check out undergraduate research.

For your questions or comments on this podcast, please email podcast at almamatters.io [podcast@almamatters.io].

Thank you all so much for listening to our podcast today.

Transcripts for this podcast and previous podcasts are on almamatters.io forward slash podcasts [almamatters.io/podcasts].

To stay connected with us, Subscribe to Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts or Spotify or visit anchor.fm forward slash almamatters [anchor.fm/almamatters] to check us out.

Till we meet again, take care and be safe.

Thank you!

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