Miner School Hosts First Research Symposium

Miner symposium Rich Miner, Holly Yanco Image by Brooke Coupal
Prof. Holly Yanco asks Android co-founder Rich Miner questions during a fireside chat.

By Brooke Coupal

When you think of occupations that rely on teamwork, does computer science come to mind?

Prof. Holly Yanco says it should.

“Computer science gets this bad rap that it’s a really solo profession, but it’s not at all,” says Yanco, chair of the Miner School of Computer & Information Sciences. “The advancements that we are making in computer science require a team.”

This sentiment was echoed throughout the first Miner School Research Symposium, where professors presented their work to an audience of more than 100 faculty members, students and alumni. Their projects ranged from developing robotic systems that can assist people who are visually impaired to artificial intelligence security.

“The talks highlighted the diversity of what our faculty are doing, but you can see a lot of connections between the projects,” Yanco says. “Even though we all have our own specialties, there are so many opportunities for collaboration.”

Miner symposium Noureddine Melikechi, Adam Norton Image by Brooke Coupal
Dean Noureddine Melikechi presents NERVE Center Assoc. Director Adam Norton with the commonwealth's 2023 Citation for Outstanding Performance.

Yanco, who serves as the director of the New England Robotics Validation and Experimentation (NERVE) Center, has had many collaborators throughout her time as a robotics expert, one of whom is NERVE Center Assoc. Director Adam Norton ’10.

“NERVE wouldn’t be NERVE without Adam,” says Yanco, who has been working with Norton since he came to UMass Lowell as a graphic design student in 2006. “Our careers have grown together.”

During the symposium, Provost Joseph Hartman, Vice Chancellor for Research & Innovation Anne Maglia and Kennedy College of Sciences Dean Noureddine Melikechi awarded Norton the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ 2023 Citation for Outstanding Performance. The award is given to state employees for their contributions to public service.

“I’m very honored to receive this award,” says Norton, whose time at the NERVE Center has led to new standards in robotics testing. “I’m very proud of the work that I’ve done and the work of my team, which has really supported me.”

Miner symposium Reza Ahmadzadeh Image by Brooke Coupal
Asst. Prof. Reza Ahmadzadeh talks about his robot learning research.
Students at UMass Lowell continue to get involved in professors’ labs, just as Norton did when he joined Yanco’s Human-Robot Interaction Lab as an undergraduate.

“Hardworking students make research possible,” said Miner School Asst. Prof. Reza Ahmadzadeh while presenting at the symposium.

Computer science master’s student Monish Reddy Kotturu ’23 works in Ahmadzadeh’s lab and was delighted to see his robot learning research highlighted in Ahmadzadeh’s presentation.

“I didn’t know he was going to present my work, so that was cool to see,” he said.

Jasmin Marwad ’23, who is also a computer science master’s student, attended the symposium to learn more about the faculty’s research projects.

“It’s really great to see the bigger picture of what our professors are researching and to know that we’re a part of that,” said Marwad, who worked at the NERVE Center. “The school gives you so many opportunities to get involved.”

Miner symposium Students listening Image by Brooke Coupal
Computer science master's student Amelia Sinclaire, center, listens with other students as Rich Miner talks.

Alum Scott Diniz ’14, ’16, ’23 stopped by to check out possible opportunities to expand the partnership between the school and his employer, Teradyne, the test and automation company based in North Reading, Massachusetts, where he works as a software engineering manager.

“I came (to the symposium) to get familiar with the research that’s going on within the school, because I want to see how some of that research might apply to Teradyne and to look for opportunities to sponsor research at UMass Lowell,” he says.

Rich Miner ’86, ’89, ’97, co-founder of Android and the namesake of the Miner School, made a virtual appearance during the event to speak about his time at UMass Lowell and his career successes. (Most recently, Miner celebrated 15 years since the launch of the first Android smartphone, which he showed off to the symposium audience.) Miner also offered words of advice to students, specifically those looking to start a company. Like Yanco, he stressed the importance of teamwork.

“I’ve been a founder several times, and I’ve invested in lots of companies,” he said. “I think the key thing to think about is your team. You want to have a strong founding team with complementary skills.”