Thomas Corcoran, a senior computer science major at Hood College, is completing a yearlong internship with the Blue Waters Student Internship Program (BWSIP) as well as the National Cancer Institute at Fort Detrick.
Corcoran, along with approximately 30 other student interns, traveled to the University of Illinois at Urbana, Champaign (UIUC) in June, where they spent two weeks training at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA). There, Corcoran learned the principles of parallel programming, scientific computing and management of big data.
“UIUC is also home to the Blue Waters supercomputer, for which the internship is named,” Corcoran explained. “We toured the supercomputer, which was astonishingly cool.”
The interns were allotted time on the machine to conduct their private research. The nature of Corcoran’s research was to apply machine-learning techniques to the detection of important features like cancer in biomedical images.
His work caught the interest of the National Cancer Institute at Fort Detrick, where he worked full time over the summer and continues to work part time along with his continued internship at UIUC.
In addition to learning and being able to apply his studies at Fort Detrick, Corcoran was able to work with Yanling Liu, Ph.D., of NCI, tackling the scourge of cancer, which Corcoran said was an “illuminating and rewarding experience.”
Corcoran credits his mentor, Xinlian Liu, Ph.D., associate professor of computer science at Hood and chair of the computer science department, and George Dimitoglou, associate professor of computer science at Hood, with helping him obtain the internship. Both professors played a role in Corcoran’s application process and taught him about conducting independent research.
“My experience with [the NCI and UIUC] has been fantastic,” Corcoran said. “The instruction I was given [at UIUC] was in-depth, challenging and has been proven to be highly useful. I am incredibly grateful to them and their support, trust and encouragement.”
In June 2017, at the end of his studies, Corcoran will be publishing a paper, which will be a culmination of his work at the Blue Waters internship program.
To learn more about the Blue Waters internship program visit https://bluewaters.ncsa.illinois.edu/internships.
Pictured above: the Blue Waters supercomputer