Joseph Sullivan, a sophomore computer science major at West Virginia University, has been awarded a summer internship with the German Academic Exchange Service – or DAAD – Research Internships in Science and Engineering program. Sullivan is the first WVU student to be awarded this opportunity.
DAAD RISE Germany offers undergraduate students from North American, British, and Irish universities the opportunity to complete a summer research internship at top German universities and research institutions. The program’s objective is to promote student exchange to Germany in the fields of natural science, engineering and life sciences, as well as motivating undergraduate students to learn more about Germany’s research landscape and study opportunities.
The competitive scholarship will allow Sullivan the opportunity to conduct research at Leuphana University of Lüneburg under the mentorship of a doctoral student. About 300 scholarships out of over 1,900 applications were awarded this year.
Sullivan’s mentor, Thorsten Wuest, assistant professor for industrial and management systems engineeringand J. Wayne and Kathy Richards Faculty Fellow in Engineering, is not surprised that Sullivan was accepted as a participant.
“This prestigious fellowship will allow Joseph to work in an exciting academic environment at the German host-university, providing him not only with additional research experience but also the opportunity to develop his global citizenship,” said Wuest. “Given that engineering today is a very international environment, I strongly believe this is an essential part of his development, both personally and in achieving his career goals.”
Sullivan is a Bucklew Scholar, a National Merit Scholar and is on the President’s List with a 4.0 GPA. Wuest explained, “Joseph is not only an outstanding student with excellent academic credentials, but he also conducts undergraduate research at a high level in my Smart Manufacturing Lab and tutors his fellow students in the Honors College.”
“I love educating and sharing interesting topics to those wanting to learn more,” said Sullivan. “My goal is to pursue an academic career, researching and teaching at the collegiate level.”
As a computer science major, Sullivan’s personal research interests involve the use of computer science and data analytics. Currently, his research surrounds optimizing the de-central scheduling of autonomous guided vehicles, using artificial intelligence to help path driver-less vehicles like forklifts and other warehouse or factory-type vehicles.
“I would eventually like to conduct research on Natural Language Processing, which is the intersection of computer science, statistics, and linguistics,” Sullivan explained. “As someone who enjoys language and syntax and grammar, in addition to those more analytical disciplines, it is a very titillating field that will continue to grow as human-computer interaction explodes in the coming decades.”
Part of the experience of the RISE program is the opportunity to participate in a German language class, where the cost of tuition for that course is covered by the DAAD. While in the language course, Sullivan will be living in the city of Cologne.
In-between his studies and other responsibilities, Sullivan has attempted to teach himself German and French. He is excited to experience learning a new language abroad in a place where he will be learning from authentic speakers.
“I know some vocab and very basic grammar and pronunciation, but this class will be invaluable to me. Essentially, I hope to be able to speak like a 3.5-year-old as opposed to a 3-year-old,” Sullivan joked.
Sullivan has always admired and sometimes romanticized Europe and the way of life there. A West Virginia native, he grew up in Hurricane – pronounced “her-uh-kin” by locals.
“I cannot wait for this program! I am excited, in roughly equal parts, to meet new people, learn new concepts, and travel around Europe. Lüneburg honestly looks like a fairytale town and I could not be more pumped,” Sullivan said. “I am a sucker for architecture and aesthetic locations and Europe, Germany especially, has both in spades.”
“He is very engaged helping the community and West Virginia as a whole. Joseph is very open-minded, gifted with curiosity, and the intellect to make a difference in the world,” said Wuest. “He will make an excellent ambassador for WVU, West Virginia and the United States in Germany.”