LTU presidential grant could send student to astronomy conference

Release Date: September 29, 2014
Evan Kuminski

                            Evan Kuminski

A Lawrence Technological University sophomore hopes to use a $1,000 research award from the Provost’s Office to finance a trip to a major astronomical conference where he hopes to present a paper on a new method for categorizing galaxies.

Evan Kuminski has been awarded a $1,000 Presidential Undergraduate Research Award that gives him the opportunity to be involved in research in a meaningful way.

Ten grants of up to $1,000 will be awarded each academic year to support student involvement in either basic research or applied research.

“Research is an essential component of LTU’s theory and practice approach to education,” said LTU President Virinder Moudgul. “Our goal is to have every student engage in either basic or applied research as part of their undergraduate education. Research provides the opportunity to put what a student has learned into practice, and invariably a deeper understanding of his or her field is the result.”

Kuminski won his grant for the research he has done with Assistant Professor Lior Shamir of the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science on a new approach for categorizing many thousands of galaxies as either spiral or elliptical.

In the past decade digital sky surveys powered by robotic telescopes have produced very large databases of images. The Sloan Digital Sky Survey has imaged several hundred million galaxies so far, and future sky surveys are expected to increase that number into the billions.

“Since there is no practical way to examine as few as 1 percent of these galaxy images manually, automatic analysis methods will be required,” Kuminski wrote in his grant application.

Through a process known as machine learning, Shamir and Kuminski used a pattern recognition algorithm to classify unknown samples. The initial results have been promising with the algorithm able to accurately classify galaxies more than 85 percent of the time for nine out of 11 questions.

Kuminski has presented preliminary findings locally and has had a paper accepted for publication by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. Now he would like to make a presentation at a major conference such as the 225th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in January in Seattle.

“I plan to continue to do research involving astronomy and computer science for the foreseeable future, and having a chance to discuss my results with other astronomers will hopefully allow me to have some influence in the field as I continue my research,” Kuminski wrote in his successful application for the Presidential Undergraduate Research Awards Program.

In order to qualify for a presidential award, a basic research project will produce new knowledge based on the student’s ability to analyze, synthesize, select a hypothesis, and test its validity. An applied research project will lead to an alternative solution to a problem based on the student’s ability to analyze, synthesize, design, and produce, or simulate a product or model.

As part of the grant program, students will engage in a literature search, select appropriate research methods, draw a conclusion concerning the value of their work, provide evidence supporting that conclusion, and display or disseminate the work for public review.

The submission deadlines are Nov. 1 for the spring semester. For information on the application process, go to: www.ltu.edu/provosts_office/presidential_undergraduate_research_awards.asp.

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