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Friday, March 1, 2024

Innovation and Research Lab created to increase STEM representation in ASUCD

The new unit was introduced to both analyze data and develop software for UC Davis students and organizations

 

By LILY FREEMAN — campus@theaggie.org

 

A new unit within ASUCD, the Innovation and Research Lab (IRL), was established through ASUCD Senate Bill #96 at the April 27 Senate meeting. This bill was co-authored by two ASUCD senators, first-year computer science major Shrey Gupta and fourth-year cognitive science and computational statistics double major Stephen Fujimoto. 

Gupta outlined the purpose of IRL.

“We want to build robust applications that apply software developments to the evolving needs of ASUCD bodies,” Gupta said. “We are developing software for the students. We see other UC schools making really nice software, and that’s something that we don’t have at UC Davis. That’s the kind of stuff we want to see, and we want to be the top UC that is making technology and leading the change in software.”

Gupta said that IRL will not only create applications and software in collaboration with various ASUCD units but also plans to hold luncheons, hackathons and technology events to increase the representation of the STEM community within ASUCD. 

IRL is also going to integrate the work that the Research and Data Committee (R&DC) currently does into the new unit, according to Fujimoto. R&DC is an ASUCD committee created in 2020 that will be absorbed by IRL.

“[R&DC] was established to incorporate and elevate more student voices into the ASUCD student government by providing data to student representatives on issues that impact the student body,” Fujimoto said via text. “The committee has worked to obtain student input through surveys on a variety of issues, including but not limited to the prevalence of equitable access, the prevalence of food insecurity and physical accessibility of campus for students with disabilities.” 

Gupta talked about how R&DC’s work will be included in IRL moving forward. 

“We are essentially taking what the Research and Data Committee did in the past, and giving them more autonomy and more freedom,” Gupta said. “We will generate and analyze data from different sources, and use that to elevate student voices and provide recommendations as to topics of interest for ASUCD bodies. The two operational parts of this unit connect, where we want to hear back-and-forth and understand how we can use technology to improve the everyday lives of students.” 

Nitin Kanchi, a first-year data science major and a previous R&DC committee member, shared his thoughts on IRL. 

“It’s a fantastic initiative,” Kanchi said. “I am thrilled to witness the transformation of R&DC into IRL, as it broadens the horizons and capabilities of our committee. The IRL establishment allows us to exercise creative control in building applications and analyzing data. By combining computer science with data science, we unlock a powerful synergy that can drive a significant impact.” 

Fujimoto also said that he and others are hoping that by IRL becoming a unit, R&DC’s projects will be able to receive more financial support, increasing the amount of paid students working on STEM projects in ASUCD and growing the group’s marketing capabilities. 

IRL will employ students in a variety of positions, including a unit director, as well as associate directors, software developers and researchers. Applications for these roles will be available on the ASUCD vacancy website soon, according to Gupta.

“We are going to be hiring for a unit director at the end of this year,” Gupta said. “I think that anyone should apply if [they] have experience in the research and data aspect or the software development aspect. The researchers and software developers are going to be hired late summer or early next year.”

  The unit will officially begin operations during the 2023-2024 school year.

“This unit is essentially a look into the future of ASUCD with technology,” Gupta said. “It’s time that we invest into the technology that we’re using every day as a university, as a student association and as people.” 

Written By: Lily Freeman  — campus@theaggie.org