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Statistics research conducted by University of Mary Washington students is currently impacting a myriad of Navy technical programs, Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) announced July 22.

The impact of student research on military technology began with a pilot program launched in the spring 2014 semester that matched NSWCDD scientist and engineer mentors with four teams of students enrolled in mathematics courses at the university.

“Collaboration with the students provided us an opportunity to explore new research areas in topics that we are not typically involved in,” said Dr. Jeff Solka, Program Manager for In-House Laboratory Independent Research (ILIR) and Independent Applied Research (IAR) at NSWCDD. “Working closely with the students helped sharpen our own understanding of these topic areas while simultaneously providing a unique learning opportunity to the students.”

Over the course of the semester, five Navy mentors worked closely with eight undergraduate students and their mathematics professors to enhance students’ abilities and statistics research.

“There is a powerful holistic approach to building fundamental skills from the liberal arts, and Mary Washington is a leader in this approach,” said Rick Hurley, University of Mary Washington President. “This collaborative research program with the Dahlgren scientists is an excellent example of an approach to integrating academics with careers.”

What’s more, the program is integrating academics with the Navy’s approach to statistical analysis. Solka sees Navy research enhanced by the discoveries students presented to their university and NSWCDD mentors at the end of the semester.

“This experience will help students realize the benefit of applying mathematics and statistics to data analytics and provided us with some new ideas to apply to the analytical products for our sponsors,” said Solka.

The university - with its Dahlgren campus located near NSWCDD and Naval Support Facility Dahlgren - plans to continue providing opportunities for students to realize the benefit of applying mathematics and statistics to data analytics.

“We’re very excited about the prospect of our students working side-by-side with real scientists at the naval base,” said Dr. Randall Helmstutler, the university’s Department of Mathematics chair. “This is a relationship that we are happy to cultivate and grow in the coming years.”

Two University of Mary Washington students - Kimberly Hildebrand Benjamin Blalock - described their collaboration with Navy scientists and engineers as transformational.

“This experience helped me to become more confident in my abilities both in the classroom and for my future,” said Hildebrand. “The opportunity also allowed me to develop a deeper interest in performing research projects and statistics.”

Hildebrand and her teammate Candice Benshaw presented their data analytics research on “Statistical Modeling and Analysis of Counts in Time”. They explained how to analyze the number of Twitter messages sent within a county in the U.S. during a given hour.

“The whole experience has transformed me into a more autodidactic learner, which already has proven to provide a variety of tangible as well as intangible benefits,” said Blalock.

Blalock and his teammate Cody Reibsome presented their research project entitled, “Simulation of a Social Network Graph”. They established a model of the collection of individuals that a member follows and the collection of individuals who are followers on Twitter.

Jonathan Blauvelt and Anthony Bell explained to Navy officials that their research - “String Edit Distance for Micro-blogging Text” - accounts for misspellings when following trends on Twitter. The students used a distance measure to determine the similarity of tweets.

William Etcho and Josiah Neuberger explored methodologies for predicting the number of citations a paper or patent receives or for identifying emerging technologies in their research on “Citation Prediction and Analysis”.

The mentoring program is designed to inspire students to consider potential careers at NSWCDD and other DoD research and development centers.

“Linking academics and career opportunities is something that our Office of Academic and Career Services is working to grow,” said Keith Mellinger, director of the university’s Quality Enhancement Plan. “It’s something that we want to pull into the first-year experience for all of our students. Long gone are the days of waiting until your senior year to start thinking about post-graduation plans.”