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NNU Student Receives Top Awards at Statewide Research Conference

August 8, 2019

Northwest Nazarene University junior, Aleesha Chavez (Nampa, Idaho), earned first place for her poster presentation and second place for the fast pitch competition at the Idaho INBRE Summer Research Conference last month in Moscow, Idaho. Over 250 students from universities, colleges and community colleges throughout Idaho competed at the conference.

Chavez presented original research she conducted utilizing artificial intelligence to aid in the early detection of prostate cancer. For her research, Chavez worked directly with St. Alphonsus pathologist and recognized prostate cancer expert, Dr. Joseph Kronz. Every Monday morning for ten weeks, she observed Kronz’s work detecting prostate cancer from microscopic imagery and worked with him to acquire digital images containing cancerous and benign glands. She then labeled these images based on her observations and used them for algorithm training. In addition to Kronz, Dr. Barry Meyers and Dr. Dale Hamilton, professors in NNU’s Computer Science department, also guided Chavez in her research.

The poster presentation competition requires students to present their research to all of the conference attendees and judges and respond to questions. The fast pitch competition limits presenters to a three-minute speech and one powerpoint slide to explain their research.

Chavez expressed feeling very well-prepared for the competitions. “My mentor Dr. Barry Myers and professor Dr. Dale Hamilton really prepared me for the conference by giving their guidance when I had difficulties. They always answered all of my questions, and constantly reassured me that I was on the right track,” she noted.

According to Meyers, “Chavez is one of the hardest working computer science students we have been privileged to know.” “She has a bright future in front of her as she finishes her degree and continues to work with cutting edge artificial intelligence technologies,” Hamilton added.

Chavez joins a large number of Computer Science students at NNU who are utilizing artificial intelligence in their research in the biomedical, ecological and archaeological settings.