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URMC / Clinical & Translational Science Institute / Stories / May 2024 / Research Assistant Liu Earns National Student Employee of the Year Award

Research Assistant Liu Earns National Student Employee of the Year Award

Andy Liu posting with SEOTY certificate against woodgrain backgroundLiu with his SEOTY certificate

Andy Liu, a research assistant for UR CTSI and a senior in the computer science program, won the National Student Employee of the Year (SEOTY) Award for 2024 from the National Student Employment Association in the undergraduate category. He was among 30 students nominated for the award and is the only winner at the University in the Innovation in Technology category. Liu has been a research assistant with the UR CTSI Informatics branch since November of 2021, working under the guidance of Dongmei Li, PhD, and Zidian Xie, PhD.

“When I started at the University of Rochester and attended an undergraduate research event, I was actively seeking research opportunities,” Liu said. “I encountered presentations by former students from Dr. Li's lab, whose work closely aligned with my previous experiences and interests. Their presentations resonated with me, prompting me to connect with Dr. Li and Dr. Xie. This connection ultimately led to my role as a research assistant in their lab.”

As a paid research assistant, Liu has worked on multiple projects, including the CRoFT Core E Social Media project and the U54 SenNET project. Both projects are demanding, real-world informatics investigations into real-world health and social issues. For his hard work and meaningful contributions, Li and Xie nominated Liu for the SEOTY Award.

“This award gives Andy external validation of his skills and abilities,” Li said. “This recognition boosts his confidence and motivates his passion for research and future studies.”

Liu credits Li and Xie as having a significant impact on his development as an undergraduate researcher.

“They influenced my academic journey through regular weekly meetings where they mentored me in research methodologies, shared insights on future trends, and discussed potential research topics,” Liu said. “Their projects often intersect with public health and policymaking, encouraging me to delve deep into data distributions and their broader implications.”

During one project studying the policy effects of a ban of Juul vaping products, the team conducted demographic classification and content analysis of social media posts on the topic.

“This thorough analysis helped me understand how various factors influence public opinion,” Liu said. “Dr. Li and Dr. Xie guided me to consider how our findings could inform policymaking, teaching me to identify significant topics and follow a rigorous research process that brings initial proposals to fruition.”

On the CRoFT project, Liu collected data from Twitter/X around e-cigarette discussions.

“This role introduced me to advanced artificial intelligence [AI] and natural language processing techniques, which I used to organize and prepare the data for comprehensive analysis,” Liu said. “By analyzing this cleaned data, I uncovered trends, sentiments, and patterns in public perceptions regarding e-cigarettes on social media. Additionally, I gained experience in applying deep neural networks for semantic analysis of both images and texts, which significantly enhanced my understanding of AI's potential for social impact. This experience not only sharpened my technical skills but also reinforced my interest in further developing AI systems during my subsequent studies.”

Liu describes the mentorship he received from Li and Xie on the Informatics team as formative, deepening his appreciation for how AI tools can be leveraged for social good. He plans to pursue a PhD after graduation and will seek a career either as a research professor or as a scientist in industry.

“My two years of experience have solidified my passion for discovery and applying advanced technologies to benefit society,” Liu said. “My goal is to become a leader in my research field, inspiring and mentoring others in the same transformative way that Dr. Li and Dr. Xie have inspired me.”

Jonathan Raab | 5/14/2024

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