Summertime Standouts: College of Natural Sciences

Julia Chavarria, psychology

First-generation college student Julia Chavarria had a backstage pass this summer to freshman and transfer student orientation sessions.

Julia Chavarria
Julia Chavarria, a teaching assistant with the Department of Psychology.

Chavarria, a junior studying general psychology, accepted a position in the Department of Psychology working as an advising teaching assistant. She helped guide students, ease the flow of orientation, give tips on courses in the department, and make class schedules.

“Overall, I have learned so much more about the orientation process here at CSU and have a whole new level of respect for all of the people that make it happen ever so smoothly,” she said.

As a TA,  Chavarria worked on a variety of projects including updating the college’s website and serving as the first point of contact for general department emails. She is now working on revamping the psychology orientation video and incorporating her favorite spots on campus to appeal to incoming students.

She said, “Everyone from the psychology department is super helpful and has made this TA experience the best I have had to date. I am so excited to continue being involved in the psychology department throughout my undergraduate studies.”

Chavarria got her first position as a TA her freshman year for a personal computing class. From there, she developed a passion for psychology, research, and teaching. This fall semester Chavarria has lined up another spot as a TA for Michael Steger, a professor in the Department of Psychology.

After graduation, Chavarria plans to continue teaching. She eventually wants to become a professor for a university and conduct her own research.

“Being able to not only help students, but teach them skills that will help them throughout their lives is just so powerful to me.”

Jack Hill, statistics

It’s not every internship where you get to use high-stakes mathematics to keep tabs on supercomputers. Third-year statistics major Jack Hill has a technical internship this summer at Fidelity Investments in Boston, Mass., where part of his job is to monitor the massive amounts of data keeping the company’s mutual fund information current.

Jack Hill at his computer
Third-year statistic major Jack Hill at his internship at Fidelity Investments.

Growing up, Hill excelled in math. Courses in calculus II and AP statistics were a breeze. “I’ve always thought of the world in numbers,” he said. “When I was at the grocery store I was always trying to calculate the total with tax before checking out or I was always the one to volunteer calculating the tip when my family went to restaurants.”

This summer Hill is working side by side with professional technologists at Fidelity Investments. He took on his first project in machine learning and time series regression within the statistical program R.

Hill is a member of the mutual funds team, which requires a large amount of computational power to keep the company on top in the competitive market.

Hill is responsible for analyzing the supercomputers’ performance and detecting changes in trends. The execution of supercomputing is crucial. It keeps mutual funds up to date and available to customers. Using a specific statistical model, he can detect regressions through machine learning. When any change occurs in the system, a report notifies the whole team, resulting in a manual look into the system.

“My next project will involve machine learning in R as well as some big data analysis in Python,” Hill said. “This will be a big challenge for me.”

The technical internship has helped narrow down a career path for Hill. He has gained interests in statistical computer science and hopes to do more with machine learning in the future. “Working with a time series model has been very fun during the course of my internship. It has me excited for the time series class I will be taking in the fall with [Associate Professor] Dan Cooley.”

After graduation in spring 2018, Hill hopes to apply his statistical knowledge toward a career in an environmental field.