NetSci High Begins Fifth Year

IMG_0944High school students participating in the fifth year of the NSF-funded program Network Science for the Next Generation, also known as NetSci High, recently returned from an intensive 10-day workshop at Boston University. The goal of NetSci High is to immerse high school students and teachers in the burgeoning field of network science through a yearlong research experience. The experiential research-based program has reached 120 disadvantaged high school students, 30 science research graduate student mentors, and 20 high school STEM teacher mentors in New York and Boston.

NetSci High begins every year with an intensive 10-day summer workshop during which students and teachers are introduced to network science concepts, learn programming skills in Python and Gephi, and practice creating basic network models using visualization software. During the July 2014 summer workshop students also had an opportunity to meet Dr. Alex (“Sandy”) Pentland from MIT’s Media Lab, Dr. Gene Stanley from Boston University’s Center for Polymer Studies, and other Network Science researchers, and heard about current applications in network science. At the end of this summer’s workshop, the eleven student teams who had just completed their year-long NetSci High research projects during the 2013/14 school year presented their research on a wide variety of topics, representing the interdisciplinary nature of network science and its ability to draw students of all interests into STEM fields.

Student Research Topics 2013/14
  • A Network Analysis of Foreign Aid Based on Bias of Political Ideologies
  • Comparing Two Human Disease Networks: Gene-Based and Symptom-Based Perspectives
  • How Does One Become Successful on Reddit.com?
  • Influence at the 1787 Constitutional Convention
  • Learning Programming with Processing for Network Science
  • Quantifying Similarity of Benign and Oncogenic Viral Proteins Using Amino Acid Sequence
  • Quantification of Character and Plot in Contemporary Fiction
  • Ranking and Alliance Determination Software for VEX Robotics Competitions
  • RedNet: A Different Perspective of Reddit
  • Teaching Grammar Better Using Link Analysis
  • Tracking Tweets for the Superbowl

Throughout the upcoming 2014/15 academic year, research center faculty and graduate student mentors will guide the new student teams through the research process of data collection, data processing, network modeling and analysis, using freely available computer tools. Through the use of technology the teams will further explore how to visualize different types of networks, calculate network statistics, and describe network processes. Teams then analyze the data to find answers to their specific research questions. Students will also visit the New York Hall of Science, the Network Science Center at United States Military Academy West Point, and Stevens Institute of Technology in order to broaden their exposure to current network science research.

This project has had many successes, including scholarships for student participants, student publication in peer-reviewed journals, and student teams presenting their research posters at the International NetSci conference in Berkeley, CA. NetSci High organizers look forward to increasing network science literacy through continued student research opportunities, broader teacher training, and publishing a Network Science Workshop Training Manual for other groups to use.