SUNY Chancellor King Touts UAlbany’s Summer Research Program

Chancellor King, along with SUNY leaders and elected officials, stand behind a group of eight UAlbany students sitting at a table branded with the UAlbany Minerva logo.
Chancellor King, along with SUNY leaders and elected officials, stand behind students researching artificial intelligence this summer through the UASRP. (Photo by Brian Busher)

By Mike Nolan

ALBANY, N.Y. (June 18, 2024) — A group of students participating in the University at Albany’s longstanding Summer Research Program (UASRP) met with SUNY Chancellor John B. King Jr. on Monday.

UASRP, run by Mayra Santiago, director of UAlbany’s Office of Access & Academic Enrichment (OAAE), offers summer research experiences to qualified, underrepresented and economically disadvantaged undergraduates enrolled at UAlbany or other higher education institutions. During an intensive, eight-week program, students work with a faculty mentor on a research assignment, while also attending seminars, workshops, events and field trips. All students receive free room and board, travel expenses and a $4,500 stipend for their work.

Eight of the 38 students in the program this summer are focusing on artificial intelligence research, funded in part through a $69,280 grant from the SUNY Chancellor’s Summer Research Excellence Fund. The grant expanded UASRP’s cohort by more than 25 percent and was submitted by OAAE with support from UAlbany’s AI Plus Institute, an umbrella entity that convenes researchers from across the University who use AI.

AI Roundtable Discussion

On Monday, King met with the student researchers focused on AI at the College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity’s AI in Complex Systems Laboratory, a cutting-edge research facility on the second floor of the ETEC research and development complex that is dedicated to the study and advancement of AI within the context of complex systems and networks. 

The lab, run by CEHC Assistant Professor Abdullah Canbaz, is hosting two UASRP students this summer. 

Chancellor King shakes hands with Mayra Santiago at the AI in Complex Systems Laboratory.
Chancellor King shakes hands with Mayra Santiago at the AI in Complex Systems Laboratory. (Photo by Brian Busher)

“Paid internships are essential to achieving SUNY’s commitment to upward mobility because they expose students to extraordinary careers and help them achieve their aspirations,” said SUNY Chancellor King. “After sitting down with some of the talented students in our program, it’s clear how much experiences like these foster growth, curiosity and innovation. We’re proud to invest funding from our historic budget this year into UAlbany’s research program and others like it across the SUNY system.”

“High-impact experiences like internships and undergraduate research fuel student success and the UAlbany Summer Research Program has been helping launch students into careers and graduate study for decades,” said UAlbany President Rodríguez. “New York State and SUNY are doubling down on these critical opportunities at exactly the right moment. To reap the benefits of landmark state and federal investments in AI and semiconductor R&D, New York needs a bright, curious and capable workforce. Experiential learning opportunities like these internships help students gain the skills they need to succeed.”    

Following the visit to the AI in Complex Systems Lab, King hosted a roundtable discussion at the ETEC Map Room with Santiago, Canbaz and four of the UASRP students to learn more about their research interests and summer experience thus far.

Other roundtable participants included:

  • U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko
  • Assemblymember Patricia Fahy, chair of the Higher Education Committee  
  • Assemblymember John T. McDonald III
  • SUNY Trustee Courtney Burke
  • Senior Vice Chancellor for Research, Innovation & Economic Development Shadi Sandvik
  • UAlbany Vice President for Student Affairs Michael Christakis  
  • Philippe Helal, senior director at Applied Materials’ META Center
  • Elizabeth Gray, strategic advisor, AI Plus Institute

UAlbany Summer Research Experience

Betul Tok, a junior informatics major with a concentration in software development, is part of the UASRP cohort this summer.

Tok is working under the mentorship of Canbaz to create a smartphone app that uses machine learning models to detect Salmonella in food via a color-changing test strip. The research is part of a $611,000 project, supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture to develop a new, fast-acting tool for Salmonella detection.  

Chancellor King hosts a roundtable discussion with UASRP students at the ETEC Map Room.
Chancellor King hosts a roundtable discussion with UASRP students at the ETEC Map Room. (Photo by Brian Busher)

“My fear with AI is how it will impact social equity. It’s important that we recognize and remove human bias from AI algorithms,” Tok said during the roundtable discussion. “With that being said, we should still be excited. This is a world-changing technology that can be used for good.”

Mauricio Rodriguez, a senior psychology major, is also a UASRP student this summer. 

Through the program, Rodriguez is working under the mentorship of College of Arts and Sciences Dean Jeanette Altarriba, studying the use of AI to solve and analyze Sudoku puzzles.

“AI is such a new innovation, and we’re still learning how to regulate it,” Rodriguez said, during the roundtable discussion. “But, when used in a positive way, the technology has the potential to support nearly every aspect of our lives.”  

Now in its 37th year, UASRP partners with a broad collective of local institutions and agencies, including: the GEN*NY*SIS Center for Excellence in Cancer Genomics, RNA Institute, New York State Department of Health’s Wadsworth Center, Albany Medical College and with scholars in UAlbany’s departments of biology, chemistry, computer science, emergency preparedness, cybersecurity, homeland security, mathematics, physics, psychology and public health. In past years, students have been placed with the Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences’ Pharmaceutical Research Institute, the Albany Stratton VA Medical Center.

This summer’s UASRP students will work with their research mentors through the end of July. Participants must reside on campus, with UASRP covering housing costs and providing a meal plan for the entire length of the program.

Students interested in participating for Summer 2025 are encouraged to complete an application form.