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Kean Students Win National STEM Awards

David Serra, Carlier Hernandez, Tristram Dacayan, and Varun Medidi smiling at a webcam for a headshot photo.

Six Kean University STEM students received awards at the recent Great Minds in STEM (GMiS) Virtual Conference, including one student who won the conference hackathon competition.

Kean students took home a first-place award, two second-place awards and two honorable mentions in addition to the hackathon championship. All the students represented Kean’s School of Computer Science and Technology and the STEM program at the event, which promotes science, technology, engineering and math careers with a focus on underserved communities. 

“I congratulate our students for participating and excelling at the GMiS Conference,” said Kean President Lamont O. Repollet, Ed.D. “They demonstrated they have the skills and training needed to succeed in demanding STEM fields, and their accomplishments underscore the value of Kean’s world-class education.”

Information technology major Varun Medidi was awarded first place in the undergraduate conceptual abstract category for his work, Advancing the UI/UX Design for Video Sharing Platforms. He researched design solutions for video platforms, such as voice-activated control systems, to broaden accessibility. It is an area in which the Sayreville native hopes to continue to work after graduating from Kean this semester.

“By designing interfaces from the perspective in which no one is left behind, only then can we truly create an inclusive experience,” Medidi said.

Tristram Dacayan, a sophomore computer science major, took first place in the CAHSI (Computing Alliance of Hispanic-Serving Institutions) hackathon, competing with two teammates from Texas A&M University–Corpus Christi. A total of 150 students from 28 universities competed in the hackathon, a cybersecurity “Capture the Flag” exercise.

Winning second-place awards were David Serra, a senior studying computer science, who was honored in the undergraduate conceptual abstract category for his project that used AI to build a personalized music recommendation system, and graduate student Carlier Hernandez, in the graduate computing category, for his research to simplify Yelp into an easier-to-use, visual format. Hernandez, a computational science and engineering major, graduates in May 2022 and plans to focus on cybersecurity or data analytics and continue his research. 

In the undergraduate computing category, two Kean students received honorable mentions. Maliha Haider, a sophomore computer science major, was honored for research using Natural Language Processing techniques to analyze Twitter data on Covid-19 to detect human emotions. Aspen Akunne, a senior in computer science, was recognized for his work highlighting the network vulnerabilities of smart devices.

Daehan Kwak, Ph.D., assistant professor of the College of Science, Mathematics and Technology, said he is proud of all the Kean students who showcased their research at the conference.

“Students who were accepted to GMiS had the opportunity to present their research, gain professional development and network with peers, professionals, faculty and recruiters,” he said. “I would like to thank our students for their devotion and hard work.” 

Overall, 24 Kean students participated in the conference. Also presenting research were undergraduate computer science majors Anthony Diaz, Alexander Fisher, Stacey Fortes, Liam Healy, Joan John, Eric Landaverde, Abiodun Obafemi, Chigozie Ofodike, Eric Ponte, Jennifer Portillo, Jonathan Rivera, Pia Tolosa and Xavier Amparo. Undergraduate IT major Fariha Pia also participated. Participating graduate Computer Information Systems and STEM students were Andres Arauz, Daniel Ojeda, Khanjan Patel, and Amrutha Ragothaman.

To see the GMiS Conference Awards ceremony, click here.