When Elaine Malit reflected upon how she chose her major, she found that her academic aspirations were inspired by her father. She shares, “My father suggested that I go into computer science because I really enjoy solving problems in science fiction books. Also, I am good at math, which can be applicable in programming.” Following her father’s suggestion of enrolling in the Computer Science program at U of T, she has, since then, developed an immense interest in artificial intelligence and software engineering. These two areas fascinate Elaine: “It’s like reading science fiction [that teaches you] to think outside of the box and expose [your] mind to many possible solutions.”
Currently in her third year of study, Elaine has most recently had the chance to further hone her skills by participating in the department’s Summer Research Internship Opportunity, where interns have opportunities to present their summer research, and socialize with undergraduate and graduate students who are also working on projects. Elaine’s current research entails an analysis of social media networks, specifically Pinterest: “I’m developing social network analysis (SNA) software to determine the ‘experts’ of Pinterest.” She continues, “The biggest challenge I’m currently facing is that there is no application programming interface (API) for Pinterest, which makes it difficult to find categorized information to form behavioral patterns.” Her research can ultimately identify individuals in the Pinterest community with the strongest influence and utilize this information to create new marketing strategies.
When asked about one memorable moment of the Summer Research Opportunity so far, Elaine beams. “Well, I'm having a lot of fun with my work, but I have to say that the weekly presentations are always a bright part of my week. It's been fun getting to know the other interns and grad students and what they have been working on. I also enjoy getting tips and advice from instructors and professors.”
Outside of her research, Elaine continues to solve problems in science fiction stories: “I think that reading science fiction helps me think outside of the box, which is an important trait in programming because, most of the time, there won’t be only one solution to your problem.” She adds, “Many of my hobbies are related to the field of computer science and I think that has helped with my schoolwork. I also enjoy solving problems in general, like the ones found in various types of puzzles.”
Clearly, Elaine is enthused by this undergraduate research experience. She continues to build her skill set and enrich her academic experience in the DCS program, honing her academic knowledge but also getting the benefit of career advice and insights from her peers, graduate students, and faculty. We’ll be watching to see where she takes it from here!