Duncan E. Clarke Innovation Award Recipient Reaping Benefits of Undergraduate Research Opportunities

Student Name: 
Josiah Hanna
Graduation Year: 
2014
Area of Interest: 
Artificial intelligent

Josiah HannaAlthough born and raised in Lexington, Josiah Hanna never seriously considered obtaining an undergraduate education in computer science from the University of Kentucky.

“I was actually determined to get away and see more of the country,” he laughs. “I didn’t even take a tour of the campus.”

Yet there were compelling reasons for Josiah to consider enrolling at UK. First, because of his academic record, he qualified to receive a scholarship that would fully fund his education. For many students, such a financial incentive would all but seal the deal, but Josiah continued to apply due diligence to his university search.

“Money isn’t everything. I figured that I could always make money and pay off debt if another school’s offer made it necessary to take out student loans. But with my whole life ahead of me, I wanted to make sure UK could offer the specific opportunities I was looking for outside of the education itself,” he explains.

What kinds of opportunities and intangibles did Josiah look for when scrutinizing the UK College of Engineering and its Department of Computer Science?

“There were several areas,” Josiah recalls. “First, I wanted to know that UK’s undergraduates were able to get involved in research and extend their learning beyond the classroom through independent work. Second, I wanted to know about UK’s study abroad options and the resources available for such trips. I also had questions about the kinds of jobs UK’s computer science graduates get as well as where they go for graduate school.”

Josiah met with department chair Kenneth Calvert to address each issue. In the end, Josiah saw enough potential to pursue his undergraduate education at UK. Now a junior, how does Josiah evaluate his experience thus far?

“UK has exceeded my expectations by far,” he says. “I got everything I was looking for as well as opportunities I had never even considered. It was the right decision to come here.”

Concerning research, Josiah has had the chance to work with computer science professor Judy Goldsmith on her artificial intelligence research, particularly in the area of planning and decision making under conditions of uncertainty. His research productivity enabled him to pursue another piece of important criteria from his university search: studying abroad.

“This past summer I went to Paris to continue my research with some of the leading researchers in the artificial intelligence field. It was my first time out of the country and one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. Being able to do research, without worrying about classes, in Paris was unbelievable,” he says.

In recognition of Josiah’s academic excellence and passion for research, the Department of Computer Science made him the inaugural recipient of the Duncan E. Clarke Memorial Innovation Award. The award was established as a tribute to former computer science professor Duncan Clarke’s educational and career achievements, his passion for research and his lifelong pursuit of innovation and excellence.

“I am very honored to receive this award because I know the quality of the students in the computer science department and all are equally as deserving,” he says. “It means a lot for a faculty member to think highly enough of you to nominate you for such an award.”

When he graduates, Josiah plans to attend graduate school and earn a Ph.D. He is also thinking about entrepreneurial ventures that will require problem solving on a computer science and business level. For now, however, he is enjoying classes, research and involvement in Triangle Fraternity, which is open to engineers, architects and scientists, and the Society for the Promotion of Undergraduate Research (SPUR).

“A lot of incoming freshman I talk to aren’t interested in research, but what a student learns by working independently and with a team can really them understand whether or not they are in the right field,” he suggests. “So I am doing what I can to help the number of undergraduates doing research grow.”

-Kel Hahn