Acxiom Empowers: Outstanding COSMOS Students Awarded Scholarship 

We are proud to announce that four students from the COSMOS center have been selected for the 2023 Acxiom Diversity Scholarship program.

This year’s Acxiom Diversity Scholarship award marks its 11th year as a program, which typically awards the scholarship to 10 students nationwide. Four of COSMOS students have won the scholarships this year, who are,  

  • Quidirat Akanji, a graduate student in Business Information Systems and Analytics,
  • Mary Nwaife Mezue, a graduate student in Business Information Systems and Analytics, 
  • Lotenna Nwanna, a graduate student in Business Information Systems and Analytics, and
  • Anulika Pearl Nwashili, a graduate student in Bioinformatics.

This scholarship provides $5,000 for US students from diverse backgrounds who are studying graduate or higher technology degrees full-time. Acxiom, based in Conway, encourages education in computer sciences, informational sciences, and mathematics & engineering. The initiative aims to decrease equality gaps by helping fund the education of the underprivileged and underrepresented.

Mary talked to us about what this scholarship means to her. “I am thrilled and inspired to embark on this journey as an Acxiom Diversity Scholar, leveraging the power of data to make informed decisions, create innovative products, and drive positive change in the world,” she says. “This scholarship represents more than just financial support; it symbolizes Acxiom’s unwavering dedication to creating a diverse workforce that reflects our world. It is a reminder that we all have a role to play in championing diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

Qudirat told us how she felt validated by the award, saying, “I am truly grateful for the award because not only can it go towards funding my education but it also validates the work I have put in so far in the data analytics field. With this award, I am excited to continue my journey of learning and growing in the industry.”

Pearl briefly describes her career and projects that this scholarship will help fund. She says, “I’m currently researching on advancing an Alzheimer’s drug discovery project to implement a more patient-specific treatment approach, or precision medicine. As a beneficiary of the Acxiom diversity scholarship, I’ll be able to join fellowship programs, attend workshops and conferences, and gain access to exclusive research resources that will bring me closer to fulfilling my goals.” 

Lotenna also detailed how this scholarship fits his individual needs, saying, “Being an International Student is not very easy. In multiple aspects, it can be difficult to adapt to the new culture.” He also points out the niche this scholarship reflects, saying “This makes the Acxiom Diversity Scholarship much more critical in enabling academic success given the glaring cultural challenges.  What sets my work and background apart is the unique perspective and diversity I bring especially as someone from a different culture.” 

Acxiom is not only a data-driven customer intelligence company — it is also part of the central Arkansas community. This scholarship continues to help provide students of all backgrounds who exemplify achievement in Acxiom’s field of study and professional ambition.

Recognizing Excellence: UALR Expo Awards Exceptional COSMOS Researchers

Several students from the COSMOS center have won awards for their research at the 2023 UALR Research Expo held on Friday, April 21st, 2023. <<please insert the date>>!

Every year, UALR hosts its campus-wide Research and Creative Works Expo, celebrating students from all colleges and their unique research. More than 120 talented UA Little Rock students presented their work during the Student Research and Creative Works Expo on April 21! We are thrilled to share that, this year, several of our team members won awards at the Expo! These team members are:

  • Ishmam Solaiman, with 2nd place in the Mainstream Expo’s Computer Science/Information Science category for his project titled Introducing our Youtube Bot – a Fully-Automated Content Discovery and Collection Agent
  • Ivory Okeke and Mert Can Cakmak, with 3rd place in the Mainstream Expo’s Computer Science/Information Science category for their project titled Examining Content and Emotion Bias in YouTube’s Recommendation Algorithm
  • Sayantan Bhattacharya and Qudirat Akanji, with 1st place in the UALR Expo’s Computer Science/Information Science category for their project titled Culture, Agenda and the Effect of Social Media on Malaysian Politics – A Survey
  • Mainuddin Shaik, with 2nd place in the UALR Expo’s Computer/Information Science Science category for his project titled The Power of Images and Videos in Social Movements
  • Hayder Al Rubaye and Mayor Inna Gurung, with 3rd place in the UALR Expo’s Computer/Information Science Science category for their project titled Utilizing the Power of Narrative Extraction and Visualization to Improve the Detection of  Deviant Behavior in YouTube

Ivory says, “I was grateful for the expo as it helped me look at my research from a more accessible angle. I had the opportunity to explain the purpose of my research in a more applicable manner while identifying limitations from my audience.”

Ishmam Solaiman describes his research and its goals. “My research expo presentation was on the YouTube content discovery bot I’ve been building. This bot is a data collection tool for YouTube.” He explains, “This project is based on the idea of making the tedious process of collecting data from YouTube much simpler and faster. The expo was a great experience and opportunity to showcase the capabilities and possibilities with the project. I talked about it with various judges and interested individuals and got to hear how the project seemed to them and to discover the many interesting ideas and point of views of different people.” 

Similarly, Sayantan describes his expo experience. “When I enrolled for UALR research expo, I was initially beset by uncertainty as this marked my inaugural foray into such an event. But I believed in my research. Under the mentorship of Dr. Agarwal and Dr. Spann, I meticulously prepared to navigate the intricate web of potential inquiries that awaited me. Several judges expressed a desire to read more about my work, once it is published. This research expo gave me a newfound confidence and a resolute determination to contribute to high-caliber research within COSMOS.

Qudirat also outlines the value of the expo and partnership, saying “I learned a lot from it. I had a supportive partner in Sayantan that helped as well, and I learned a lot about preparing for such events. The most important thing I learned was how to share the value of my work. Sharing the value of your work with people who have different interests can be daunting, but we found that highlighting how our work intersected with their interests helped them understand and relate to it better. Overall, it was a learning experience and I am grateful for the opportunity to share our work and also be recognized for it.”

Haydar encourages new researchers to join in this experience, saying, “I had a wonderful time preparing and presenting at the ResearchExpo. I would describe it as an educational experience that taught me how to think about my work, how to foster collaboration with fellow researchers, what important points to show, and what to skip during an oral presentation. Given the incredible benefits I gained, I would recommend all prospective graduates to apply for next year’s event as it promises to be an invaluable experience that will contribute significantly to their development as researchers.”

Finally, Shaik talked about the journey of such research — emphasizing that these skills can only be acquired by putting oneself out there to present various ideas or research work. “It required effective communication skills and a good understanding of the subject,” he says. “You have to adopt the nature of a salesman to sell your work, but at the same time, it should speak for itself.”

Prestige in Data Analytics: DART Annual Conference Award

Last April, COSMOS student Mayor Inna Gurung won third place at the graduate poster competition at the annual DART conference in Arkansas, held on Thursday April 20th- 21st in Fayetteville. DART stands for Data Analytics that are Robust and Trusted (DART), which is a $24 million NSF EPSCOR grant awarded to Arkansas.  

She discusses how her presentation helped her further her skills, saying, “I learned how to present the work in a way that anyone, from any field or from across disciplines, could understand my work.” This award highlights creating new solutions for issues in big data management, security and privacy, and model interpretability.

Mayor’s work tackles the issue of big data management by discovering the narrative trends buried beneath large numbers of YouTube videos. This research is novel because it works with a media that is traditionally hard to analyze, since videos, unlike text, are difficult to process as they require natural language processing of multimedia elements to construct semantic meaning.