Kathryn LeonardCamarillo, Calif., Sept. 18, 2013 – A paper authored by CSU Channel Islands (CI) Associate Professor of Mathematics Kathryn Leonard and five of her undergraduate students won the "Best Paper" award at the 13th International Conference on Computational Science and Its Applications (ICCSA 2013) in Vietnam. The paper, titled "Minimal Geometric Representation and Strawberry Stem Detection," beat out 14 other nominees for the top award in the annual conference, held June 24-27 in Ho Chi Minh City.

The student authors were Danika Lindsay, Rebecca Strawbridge, Matthew Dawson, Lawrence Averion and Raquel Barata. All five students have graduated from CI and gone on to graduate school or positions as mathematicians and programmers.

Their paper is based on a two-year CI undergraduate research project led by Leonard and funded by a National Science Foundation CAREER grant that Leonard obtained in 2010. The NSF grant supports the work of faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of the two.

The paper describes an effective algorithm for determining where a strawberry's stem is located in an image of the berry. The research group devised a method of using a kind of "skeleton" extracted from the berry shape to predict the berry's stem location based on its geometry.

"This project was of particular importance and relevance to us since our University is surrounded by strawberry fields," said Danika Lindsay, a CI graduate now in her second year as a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow and mathematics Ph.D. student at the University of Minnesota. "As a result, this was a project we all worked very passionately on, and it meant a lot to be recognized for that work."

In addition to accepting the award and presenting the group's research, Leonard participated in applied math and computational science talks, networked with international colleagues, and sampled Vietnamese food, landmarks and culture.

"It's a great recognition for the kind of work CI students can do, given the resources and opportunity," Leonard said. "This conference is not a student conference. It's a professional conference attended by Ph.D.-holding professors from around the world and a handful of Ph.D. students. When I first started working with these students, they had almost no idea what research was or how to do it."

Undergraduate research is a key emphasis of a CI education. Nearly half of all CI graduates participate in some form of hands-on research or creative activity, giving them an advantage in graduate school and careers.

"I strongly believe that learning outside the classroom is an essential part of a real education, and for that reason, this research project was a great opportunity for me," said CI graduate Matthew Dawson, now pursuing his Ph.D. in Biostatistics at UC Davis. "Participating in undergraduate research was easily the biggest factor in my choice to pursue graduate school. Dr. Leonard presented this project in a way that was manageable for an undergraduate, but still gave a preview about what research really is."

The annual ICCSA conference offers opportunities to discuss new issues, tackle complex problems, and find advanced solutions able to shape new trends in computational science. Computational science is a main pillar of most of the present research, industrial and commercial activities and plays a unique role in exploiting Information and communication technologies as innovative technologies. Learn more at www.iccsa.org.

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About California State University Channel Islands
CSU Channel Islands 
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