First-year student Omar Beesley ’20 wasn’t nervous about posing the question because his professor was so approachable: Was David Perkins, visiting assistant professor of mathematics, doing any summer research in which Beesley could participate?
The upshot: Beesley and classmate Spencer Woolfson ’20 have a summer to work with Perkins and Assistant Professor of Mathematics Courtney Gibbons on a topic that interests Beesley in multiple ways.
The research team plans to study “word embedding,” a modern technique that associates words with vectors and then uses linear algebra to discover links among words in large data sets.
Intended Majors: Mathematics and Physics
Hometown: Delmar, N.Y.
High School: Bethlehem High School
“These embeddings, which can be used for such tasks as reviewing resumes and monitoring networks, can show signs of gender bias. We intend to write an artificial intelligence that will carry out word embeddings, then analyze the results for gender bias. If such bias exists, the team will develop a tool that will correct it," Perkins explains.
Beesley already has delved into artificial intelligence with Hamilton’s Mathletics team, which worked on programming a system that would look at the relationship dynamics of a population and adjust the dynamics for the optimal situation for everyone in the population. He’s looking forward to learning more.
“And we’re using math techniques from linear algebra, which I took during the spring semester. I think it’s a great opportunity to see how techniques from class — linear algebra is really abstract and you don’t really see any practical applications in class — are used in a much more real life situation to program something,” Beesley says.
He’s an intended math and physics double major who also takes at least one humanities course a semester. That hasn’t left him time to learn more about computer programming, so he’s glad the summer work gives him a chance to do that. It also gives him his first shot at conducting true research in an academic setting.
“I do want to end up going to graduate school, and I think this is the first step to understanding how academic research is conducted,” he says.
Perkins and Gibbons are donating their time to the summer project. Student support comes from The Monica Odening ’05 Student Internship & Research Fund in Mathematics.