Statistics Professor and Medical Student Undergraduate Research Project Published in National Journal

Undergraduate Research Success Inspires Additional Projects
School of Med student Vagmi Kantheti and Statistics Professor Billie Anderson Stand in front of Research Presentation

UMKC offers a unique undergraduate experience for students looking to get involved in research projects across all academic units.

Through several different programs and grants, Roos can take part in meaningful research that can not only improve their resumes, but give them skills and tools they can use in the future.

Medical student Vagmi Kantheti received a Summer Undergraduate Research Opportunity (SUROP) grant in 2022 where she worked with Billie Anderson, Ph.D., assistant professor of applied statistics, Majid Bani-Yaghoub, chair of the mathematics and statistics department and Scott Curtis from the UMKC library to develop a corpus of full-text journal articles related to the Spanish flu of 1918.

“It has been a real pleasure to work with and introduce our undergraduate students to a research project,” Anderson said. “Many undergraduate students are not aware of all the details and hard work that goes into a research project. By working with undergraduate students, it allows them to obtain exposure to another part of university life that they may not always be exposed to. This exposure to undergraduate research could spark interest in a student to attend graduate school. Students get to experience meeting deadlines, following specific instructions, and creating a final product, all of which will assist them in their professional careers. “

The project, which is divided into two parts, went on to be presented at regional and national conferences. The first part, which focused on developing the methodology for using the statistical language R, was presented at the Mathematical American Association Missouri Section meeting in April 2022. This work was also published in the Journal of Information Science.

I am so happy for Dr. Anderson who has been working very hard at this project and many others and believe she very much deserves to be published and recognized for her work,” Vagmi said. “I am very happy with the outcomes of my work and am so grateful that she decided to let me be a part of this work.

”The second part of the project entailed applying a textmining algorithm to determine any connection or “lessons learned” from the Spanish flu that could be applied to the COVID-19 pandemic using a text mining model. That research was presented at the Joint Statistical Meetings of the American Statistical Association in Washington, D.C. in August 2022.

“Dr. Anderson was truly an amazing mentor and she helped me be not as fearful of doing further research in fields that I have better knowledge in, like biological research,” Vagmi said. “It was clear that the people I worked with were very capable and were more than willing to help me grow as a part of the research team. Dr. Anderson even let me make and present the work that I did in a math and statistics conference that was held on UMKC campus.”

SUROP recipients present their findings every year at the Symposium of Undergraduate Research and Creative Scholarship. It gives each student, like Vagmi, the opportunity to share their projects among their peers and colleagues.

The success of the project through SUROP inspired Billie Anderson to put together a group of undergraduate Bloch students and lead a summer project to put together another corpus focusing on reject inference.

“Before this summer, the idea of undergraduate research was very intimidating to me. And, with no prior experience, my only hope was to learn more about research and what it looks like at UMKC,” Hunter Meisner, a student who worked on the research, said. “Not only did I achieve that, but I achieved it with help from the people here at UMKC.”

Anderson received $8,000 in funding for the project to be split up amongst four students, $2,000 each, as part of a Strategic Investment in Applied Statistics grant from the Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Scholarships.

The corpus of over 100 documents will be used to then develop a literature review of the loan outcome status for rejected applicants, in turn developing a credit score model without bias of only accepted applicants.

The consolidation of the information and documents will allow for a text mining model to be used to uncover potential areas where more research on rejected applications is required.

The opportunity to conduct undergraduate research provides students with valuable experience where they can learn and develop research skills than can help them in the future.

“While I am not a finance major, this experience was incredibly valuable because it was my first time conducting undergraduate research,” Meisner said. “But, more than a learning experience, it was an opportunity to show myself and others that I can contribute to the world of academia.”

“If you don’t take opportunities that are in front of you, you may miss out on future opportunities,” Cody Harman, who participated in the research, said.


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