Undergraduate Research

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David Park

Graduation Year:
Research something you are passionate about. Don’t research something that you’re not interested in because you want to build your resume or you want to publish a paper. Passion really shows in research.

Please give a brief, simplified overview of your research project.
I am creating a library of olfactory receptors in a matrix form to create a method to diagnose diseases using the sense of smell. The matrix of olfactory receptors will create data for the device to differentiate different smells using machine learning. I am also assisting in the creation of a haptic device that is designed to let students physically experience quantum mechanical forces between atoms calculated using the Lennard-Jones potential.

Describe the tasks you engage in as part of your work.
I use polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to create the olfactory receptors picked out from a huge database of olfactory receptors picked out from my code. For the haptic device, I create fingerprints for the neural networks to work with when optimizing bonds between atoms.

Describe what you thought college might be like before you came to UT. Did you consider research when thinking about college?
I thought I would be doing lots of wet lab research before I came to UT. However, due to COVID, many wet labs were closed as wet labs requires you to come in person. I joined a lab that specialized in computational work instead, despite having zero coding experience. Although I was scared at first, I instantly became engrossed in the various projects I was in. Taking a chance with coding really paid off, paving a new road for me that I never would’ve imagined before coming to UT.

How did you get involved with your research project?
I got involved with my research project through emailing professors and through the Freshman Research Initiative (FRI).

Do you see your project connecting with your plans for your future?
I see my project connecting with my plans for my future as I would like to incorporate machine learning and simulations into future projects, working not only with sensory organs from my Neurosurgery lab but also using the technology of building an entire world in my FRI lab.

What is the most interesting or surprising thing you’ve gotten to do for this project?
The most interesting thing I’ve gotten to do for my project is interacting with these devices I’m creating.