Joshua Neil

1. What is your specific area of research (include the name of your faculty and/or laboratory)?
During the 2000/2001 school year, Dr. Hong-Kai Zhao of the Department of Mathematics and I investigated the fascinating area of image processing. We worked with gray-scale (black and white) images. Specifically, we were interested in reducing the number of different shades of gray in an image, while keeping the important features of the image intact.
2. When and how did you first get involved in research?

I knew I wanted to be a researcher from a fairly early age. Both of my parents have Ph.D.s, and I was determined to follow in their footsteps. I was always on the lookout for a good under-graduate research advisor. As a junior, I took a class in Numerical Analysis from Dr. Zhao. Dr. Zhao was an excellent instructor, and the subject fascinated me. I knew I had found my advisor. It was then only a matter of convincing him that he wanted to advise me. With a little persistence, he agreed, and we started talking about a research project.

3. How has research enhanced you education?

Research has enhanced my education in many ways. I think the subject I learned most about while working with Dr. Zhao was the process of doing research. In this project, I spent many hours solving problems that I had not expected. But the solutions to these problems generally led me to results I had not expected either. While conducting research, one should expect these problems to come up. They are a natural part of the process, and usually help in coming to a better understanding of the subject at hand.

4. What has been you favorite experience with research (include any interesting stories or specific events)?
I have a friend with a fourteen-year-old daughter. She is very bright and inquisitive, and I often shared my research with her. The night before the UROP poster presentation, I was still struggling over a problem that had been plaguing me for almost a year. She took one look at my images, and made a comment that was like a lightning bolt on a clear day. From her comment, I immediately knew the source of the problem and solved it with just a few minor adjustments. It just goes to show that a fresh perspective is always valuable.
5. What are your future plans and how has being involved in research helped to prepare you to meet your goals?

I am currently working at Los Alamos National Laboratory, conducting research in the area of network security. My research at UCI not only allowed me to quickly integrate into the workforce here at the lab, but also helped land me the job in the first place. Both graduate schools and the industry value undergraduate research experience. It sets the student apart from the crowd, and makes people take a second look.

6. What advice would you give to a student interested in pursuing a faculty-mentored undergraduate research project or creative activity?

Be persistent! Ask your professors what kind of research they are doing. If it sounds interesting to you, bug them, bug them, and bug them some more. Use their office hours to do this, however, since going to their offices at other times will be intrusive. Then, once you have an advisor and a project, devote as much time as you can to it. None of the time you spend on the project will be wasted, and you will end up with a nice final result. Also, enjoy yourself. This is for learning and having fun!

Past Researchers of the Month

Dec. '01 Anna Kaiser
Nov. '01 Sunny Staton
Oct. '01 Kristine Kolkman
Sep. '01 Raquel Fernandez
Aug. '01 Temre Davies
Jul. '01 Krikor Andonian
Jun. '01 Elizabeth Kirchner
May '01 Joshua Neil
Apr. '01 Alia Shbeeb
Mar. '01 Qyana Griffith
Feb. '01 Reshmi Basu
Jan. '01 Yousuke Hamai
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