When Jon Snow ‘22 learned about the opportunity to build a network, work in the UNH InterOperability Laboratory (IOL) and begin his college year with a unique experience through joining the Innovation Scholars program, he couldn’t pass it up.
A year later, the sophomore computer science major has built a strong network, presented at one of the largest undergraduate research conferences in the world and landed a paid position at the IOL.
Much of this he credits to his experience as an Innovation Scholar in the internet engineering cohort.
“The connections I made in Innovation Scholars gave me a special network of motivated and bright students who are a support system,” says Snow, an Amherst, New Hampshire, native. “I have certainly turned to those members of my cohort who are now in my classes if I need any help.”
Innovation Scholars, open to first-year students recognized as dean’s and presidential scholars in the College of Engineering and Physical Science (CEPS), is a research driven introduction to UNH under the direction of a faculty member. There are multiple research areas to choose from within three cohorts, including advanced manufacturing, internet engineering and water sensor design and monitoring.
Snow is already planning on completing the accelerated master’s program with an eye on working in the software engineer industry.
Below is an Q&A with Snow and CEPS regarding his UNH experience thus far.
What did you get out of the program from an academic/research perspective?
I got experience with technologies and programming languages I haven't even covered yet in my classes, and the presentations I received at the beginning of the program gave me a crash course on numerous topics related to my area of study. It really was a great way to begin my time here at UNH because it gave me an idea of just what I would be learning and how participating in opportunities such as Innovation Scholars could enrich my academic experience.
What would be your advice to an incoming freshman considering Innovation Scholars?
I recommend they find the cohort which sparks their interest the most because working on a project you have no passion for will only lead to dissatisfaction with your work. I also suggest that freshmen consider the benefits it could have on not only their academic career but their professional career. This program can really help you with building skills, a network, and a social circle.
Even if a cohort doesn't perfectly match your interests consider the flexibility the program affords you as far as picking the topic of your project. Innovation Scholars is what you make it, and the best thing you can do is make sure it serves you well.
What was the research project you worked on?
My research group worked on a portal traffic tracking system, which could record how much foot traffic was coming into and out of a public venue and provide this data to the public so that they could plan to go at off-hours to avoid the crowds. Typically, a couple of our members would work on the poster design for our presentation while the others would work on the actual project. We would switch roles as needed during the process, so we could all get experience working on all aspects of the project.
What was the most challenging part of the program?
Managing our time working on our project proved to be the most challenging part of the program. Ensuring we met deadlines in the days and weeks leading up to the presentation at the Undergraduate Research Conference (URC) was certainly a constant challenge, but we managed to get everything done on time. The presentation at the URC was nerve-racking but it was a welcome challenge because it gave me an idea of what I could expect if I decided to present at the URC later in my academic career.
What was the most rewarding part of the program?
The most rewarding part of the program was building a project that was outside of our normal day-to-day coursework but closely related enough that I could see a direct correlation between what I learned in my other courses and what I was doing in the program. Putting in the hours that we did and seeing the project come to fruition was certainly something that changed my whole outlook of what was possible through the opportunities I would get in college.
Were there any other benefits of the program that you didn’t expect?
The program gave me the opportunity to meet some high quality and motivated students in and out of my major. It is nice to see these familiar faces around campus and know I have these exceptionally talented individuals in my network if I ever need them. Outside of the social/professional benefits, the program helped me get acquainted with the IOL, and it played a big part in securing the position I now have working in the lab.