Student-Focused SoReMo Forum Offers Research Opportunities



By Casey Moffitt

The Socially Responsible Modeling, Computation, and Design (SoReMo) initiative kicked off its forum series for the fall 2021 semester with a new focus that will allow students and student researchers to work together on research projects that will impact their community.

The SoReMo initiative empowers Illinois Institute of Technology students to apply their academic research efforts in computation, data science, design, and related fields  to help solve issues facing society today. It connects students with a network of academics to aid their research projects.

Five student researchers have accepted SoReMo fellowships to conduct research projects. Each forum will allow the fellows to report on their progress, present questions to the forum, and request help. Those attending the open forums could find opportunities to contribute to these research projects.

“This is really about how (students) can get involved,” Sonja Petrovic, associate professor of applied mathematics at Illinois Tech, says in describing the goal of the forum series. “Do you have a skill that can help any of these fellows? Do you know how to get data that can help them? Do you know who they can talk to in order to get the information they need?”

“Pretty soon, the students will own this forum,” Petrovic continued.

The five new student research fellows come from a variety of academic backgrounds and were introduced at the forum, and each presented their ambitious projects. SoReMo offered fellowships to three students conducting research that examine diversity in education from three different angles.

Jati Zunaibi (Ph.D. ARCH Student) proposed to examine how design can be used to influence autonomous diversity in education through “Design Justice Within Education.” Zunaibi argues that socially responsible education must include design.

Michael Kralis (M.S. MATH 1st Year) will conduct a statistical analysis of Chicago’s secondary schools in his project “Education Disparity in Chicago.” Data shows that students enrolled in a low-income neighborhood high school attain lower scores in standardized math and reading tests than their counterparts in higher-income neighborhoods. Students enrolled in expensive private schools tend to score even higher. Kralis is looking to find a way to explain why through a statistical analysis.

Sandy Orozco (MPPA 1st year), proposed conducting surveys for “Evidence-Based Strategies: A Study to Improve Diversity and Inclusion in Illinois Higher Education Institutions.” The goal is to see if effective and efficient resources are being used at secondary schools with large low-income, minority populations to prepare them for higher education.

Similarly, the other two fellows are each conducting research projects in public health.

Sara Simon (Ph.D. DHUM Student) will examine how Chicago city officials have collected, cleaned, and transmitted public health data in order to develop a more transparent model in her project “The Data-Driven Narratives of Epidemics: A History of Chicago’s Public Health Data Pipelines.”

Trent Gerew (AMAT/M.S. AMAT 4th Year) aims to look at public health data through a model in space, rather than a model in time, with “Reaction-Diffusion Spatial Modeling of COVID-19 in Chicago.” Gerew argues that most public health models assume populations are homogenous and spatially independent. However, neither is the case, and Gerew hopes to develop an SIR model that will show how different populations are affected by the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

SoReMo forums are held the second and fourth Friday of each month, and are open to students and faculty alike.

Photo: Associate Professor of Applied Mathematics Sonja Petrovic