Winter in July for UNO students in MISL lab
On the final Friday of July, the MISL team celebrated winter.
On this 85-degree day, the UNO students who are a part of the Malevolence, Innovation, Security, and Leadership lab (MISL) donned bulky sweaters, knit hats and festive winter garb. It was yet another attempt by the couple dozen undergraduate and graduate students to connect and make light as the ongoing pandemic has moved get-togethers to Zoom.
The monthly meetings of this interdisciplinary group, with a number of paid NCITE student researchers, each have a unique theme. Team members are encouraged to join in on the fun, with past themes having included Disney characters, the 80’s, and Dress Like Another Team Member Day. Additionally, many team members participate in open meetings held weekly on Friday afternoons, to instill a sense of normalcy through this isolated period.
Students come from a variety of majors and colleges. Take Alexis D’Amato, an MBA student. She led the meeting and facilitated discussion.
Elizabeth Bender, a junior studying criminology and criminal justice and Spanish, enjoys the meetings due to the varied topics that are discussed. She said that allows her to learn about broader topics that can be applied to her own projects.
Plus, she said, these sessions are even more important now, during the COVID-19 outbreak, “because it is a great way to continue to connect and collaborate with friends and coworkers. It is something to look forward to and makes working from home a little easier.”
The meetings also include tutorials on useful software, presentations on individual research, and many other niche topics. Once chatter about the July 31 winter fun theme quieted down, the meeting began with a presentation from Clara Braun, a second-year criminology and criminal justice doctoral student who serves as an NCITE counterterrorism research theme lead. She spoke about Beautiful.ai, a modern and innovative software for creating aesthetically pleasing presentations. She led a discussion on how the software could be implemented within the lab to make work more efficient and accessible. To do so, she created a sample presentation that highlighted evidence for a very controversial topic: Whether the Ewoks in Star Wars are actually cold-blooded killers.
Following this, Joey Gruber, a junior studying IT innovation and communications, described the use cases of Reallusion’s AI-powered character creator. Joey showed how the tool receives user-submitted photographs and can generate a 3-D human avatar based purely on the photograph. Smirking, she showed a generated 3-D model of Dr. Doug Derrick, one of the MISL directors and an NCITE founder. However, meeting participants noticed –amusingly --how the avatar was seemingly more fit than reality. Smirking, she showed a generated 3D model of Dr. Doug Derrick, one of the MISL directors. However, meeting participants noticed –amusingly --how the avatar was seemingly more fit than reality.
Given the heavy and serious subject matter studied at the MISL lab, these light moments build morale and stitch students together –a vital outcome for any group but particularly so in these strange times.
But the meetings are not just hijinks. Closing out the session was IT innovation master’s student Luis Merino, who demonstrated an innovative tool called Splunk. His tutorial covered the use cases for automated machine learning software and its possible applications for both student research and lab projects. Luis walked students through how easily one could import a large dataset and run machine learning algorithms to identify patterns and insights within the data. As always, the presentation sparked conversation as to how it could be implemented within the laboratory.
This was a bittersweet note to end on. While the MISL team has fun on screen, students cannot wait until it is safe again to resume meeting in person.