July 15, 2019
NEWBURGH, N.Y. -
Andrella Collins (back row, third from the right) of Cornwall-on-Hudson, N.Y,. a Mount Saint Mary College Mathematics major, was one of only ten students chosen for the Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program at The University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
One summer can change everything.
It’s an axiom that Andrella Collins of Cornwall-on-Hudson, N.Y., a Mount Saint Mary College Mathematics major, experienced firsthand at her internship with the Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program at The University of North Carolina at Charlotte. The internship, she said, has uncovered a new academic interest and possible career path.
“Since this internship is about crime analysis, it allowed me to get a taste of the criminal justice field while still staying within the math realm,” she said.
The ten-week long program, funded by the National Science Foundation, gives participants hands-on experience in crime analytics and data. Students like Collins have been working closely with faculty from Charlotte’s Departments of Criminal Justice and Criminology, Geography and Earth Science, the College of Computing and Informatics, and the Data Science and Business Analytics program. The experience runs May 20 through July 27.
Having had an interest in the fields of law and criminal justice, Collins decided to apply to the prestigious program, which she heard about through the Mount’s division of Mathematics and Information Technology.
Roughly 400 students applied and only ten were chosen for the program. Collins believes her GPA of nearly 4.0 and her involvement in extracurricular activities gave her an edge.
Students are working on one of three projects, which are focused on:
- The relationship between race, criminal history, and positive credentials in employment
- Parking lot crimes and use of video surveillance and artificial intelligence to identify suspicious activity
- Human trafficking in the Dominican Republic, using direct data from the Dominican Republic government
Collins has been working on the project regarding race, criminal history, and employment. She and three other students sent out thousands of résumés to employers across North Carolina, taking note of how race, criminal record, gender, and/or the inclusion of a reference letter might impact an employer’s chances of hiring an applicant. The project has involved plenty of data collection, analysis, and coding. The students are also analyzing data from a prior, similar survey.
“The program has offered wonderful opportunities such as being able to visit the Criminal Justice unit of the Central Piedmont Community College,” Collins explained. There, students examined the technology that law enforcement uses to trace deleted messages from cell phones, as well as a simulator that allows for cadets in training to practice scenarios that they may face out in the world as police officers.
“We also had the opportunity to visit the Bank of America and Wells Fargo, as Charlotte is the second biggest banking hub on the East coast,” Collins said. “There, we were exposed to the different types of security and intelligence analytics that occur in banks, and were able to speak with people that worked directly in those fields.”
During her time at the internship, Collins has learned a few important things about her academic tastes: “I don’t want to go into the criminal justice/law field and I don’t want to do research,” she explained. “That being said, I have discovered that I’ve taken a liking to data analysis and I want to pursue a career in that.”
In addition, Collins improved her personal communication skills, which will help her to be most successful both in everyday life and in the classroom.
“I’ll be able to take the interpersonal skills that I’ve learned and apply them to team projects and networking,” she said.