Malik Khadar Earns Honorable Mention for CRA’s Outstanding Undergraduate Research Award
Department of Computer Science & Engineering integrated program student Malik Khadar earned honorable mention for the Computing Research Association's (CRA) Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Award for 2023. He was nominated by Professor Maria Gini, a member of the CRA board of directors. Khadar was selected for his breadth of research contributions, including work with Professor Gini, Professor Paul Capel from the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geo-Engineering, and his honors thesis.
Khadar was introduced to research at the University of Minnesota before he first stepped foot on campus as a student. After discovering the YouTube channel Two Minute Papers, he became fascinated with the endless possibilities of computer science research and expressed his interest to his high school math teacher. She then connected Khadar to the CS&E Department, and ultimately, Professor Gini.
“I worked with Professor Gini on a project for a contest for the National Association of Broadcasters,” Khadar said. “You know when you go to a website and there is a little person in the corner of the screen? It’s a human’s picture, but is actually a robot. They wanted us to create a chatbox for their own site - a basic chatbot that can be modified with a personality that suits their needs. We were one of two teams that earned that grant.”
After the success of his first research project, Khadar joined Professor Capel’s team after taking a course on local environmental solutions. Using machine learning, he helped program a simulation to find the best days and times to sample water from local lakes and rivers for optimal data collection.
Taking inspiration from his two research experiences, Khadar is now forging his own path with his honors thesis. His project combines machine learning and music.
“I was inspired by Dall-E, an AI site that generates pictures from text prompts,” Khadar said. “The goal of the project is to make an audio equivalent of this technology. I am in the music production club and I want to be able to describe the sound you want and have the technology to produce it.”
In addition to his own work, Khadar is paying it forward by helping others get involved in the world of research.
“As an undergraduate research advocate, we talk to directors of undergraduate studies (DUGS) about how undergraduates get involved in research,” Khadar said. “How do they find out about opportunities? Which types of students stay involved over time? What holds them back from getting involved? We then work on ideas to get more undergrads involved.”