Second-Year Student, Eisha Peyyeti, Once Again Realizes the Power of CS at Trick or Research Event

11/22/2022 8:09:30 AM Aaron Seidlitz, Illinois CS

When Eisha Peyyeti, a second-year computer science major at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, presented at this year’s Trick or Research event during the first week of November, she couldn’t help but notice the quantity and range of the other students presenting their research projects.

Eisha Peyyeti
Eisha Peyyeti

Trick or Research began last year. It's designed to be an annual event hosted by the CS STARS – a group of undergraduate students focused on furthering engagement in undergraduate research while also seeking new opportunities for departmental outreach. The STARS include nearly 40 undergraduate students who work with faculty and fellows from the Broadening Participation in Computing effort here at Illinois Computer Science.

This year’s Trick or Research event drew undergraduate students who either presented their research projects or attended to learn more about the opportunities to conduct undergraduate research within the department.

Peyyeti presented her project, which, she said, revolves around “external position sensing and simulation of the Crazyflie, a micro-quadcopter.”

But a moment of realization came to her as she watched so many others present inspired details of their research projects. Peyyeti couldn’t help but recall her initial interest in studying computing back in high school.

“As I progressed into high school, I took my first CS classes; this is when I got to see how broad the field of computer science truly is. Given this, and how many intersections CS has with other fields, I could not resist studying computing in college.” Peyyeti said. “Presenting at Trick or Research gave me the opportunity, once again, to observe how vast the field computing really is. Seeing other students’ research span from determining the precision of autonomous machines, to observing human-computer interactions, to drawing conclusions from UIUC student data was extremely fascinating.

“I knew that the research topics were going to vary, but I never expected to see such a span of different topics discussed through research in computer science.”

Illinois CS professor Elahe Soltanaghai headshot outside on campus with trees and a building in the background.
Elahe Soltanaghai

This moment of realization came alongside the professor she has been working with on her research through the CS STARS program, Elahe Soltanaghai.

The professor joined Illinois CS faculty in 2021 with an expertise in wireless sensing and networking and its application in cyber-physical systems and the Internet of Things (IoT). She and Peyyeti paired well together due to their interests, which has led to a productive working relationship.

Soltanaghai sees undergraduate research as an opportunity to awaken “students’ sense of curiosity to learn, build, and invent new things.”

In her research group, undergraduates often begin by building an existing system with the goal in mind of improving it. They progress to working with teams of other undergraduate and graduate students to solve new problems and write research papers. Eventually, some of her undergraduates also lead research projects, like graduate students, by reviewing research papers, sparking new research ideas to pursue, running the experiments, analyzing the experimental data, and more.

In a short amount of time with Peyyeti over the course of this semester, Soltanaghai already has built up a tremendously positive impression of the young student.

“Eisha is a superstar, and I quite enjoy working with her,” Soltanaghai said. “I found her personal statement in her CS STARS application inspiring, as she enjoys learning about new technologies. She knew she liked robotics and was looking for a real-world problem that she can contribute to. So, she already had the curiosity awakened in her mind, and I had the tools to let her explore it.

“If it wasn’t for the CS STARS program, maybe our paths would’ve never crossed.”

Peyyeti echoed those sentiments when expressing how she felt about working with Soltanaghai, an experience she considers “nothing but a joy.”

She has utilized the professor’s knowledge base to stretch her own comfort working with embedded software, hardware, and simulations of aerial systems. This, Peyyeti said, is the area she foresees a potential professional future.

Additionally, she said that Soltanaghai introduced her to the concept of iterative research and devolvement, which has helped their research together and benefited Peyyeti’ s experience working with the Illinois Space Society on campus.

Her research experience with Soltanaghai took another step forward with her presentation at Trick or Research. But Peyyeti said she has also benefitted from the CS STARS group in other ways.

“Perhaps what I enjoy most through my CS STARS experience is the impact I can have on prospective students,” Peyyeti said. “I have had the pleasure of speaking to prospective undergraduate students on the opportunities here at UIUC. Being able to reflect on my time thus far at UIUC and provide advice to prospective students on the college application process, has been very fulfilling.”

Students stand in a hallway at the Thomas M. Siebel Center for Computer Science, looking at and hearing research project presentations, during the 2022 Trick or Research Event.
Students stand in a hallway at the Thomas M. Siebel Center for Computer Science, looking at and hearing research project presentations, during the 2022 Trick or Research Event.