Article by Nick Knopik, contributing writer and former assistant director of leadership and service

Libbie Clevette ’25 could have spent the summer after her sophomore year at home in Crete, Neb. Instead, she moved 1,200 miles away to a city forty times larger than her hometown for ten straight weeks — nearly her entire summer break.

For Clevette, though, that change of scenery became a highlight of her experience.

Libbie Clevette has shoulder-length reddish-brown hair and is wearing a grey blazer over a black turtleneck. She's smiling at the camera.
Libbie Clevette ’25 is majoring in mathematics and data analytics. She spent her summer at an undergraduate research experience at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University.

“I absolutely loved the scenery in North Carolina,” she said. “I found a nice park in Greensboro, which is where I was living, called Guilford Courthouse National Military Park. It was a beautiful park with lots of history.”

Greensboro is the home of North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (NC A&T), where Clevette was accepted to a competitive undergraduate research experience (URE) in data science during the summer of 2023.

As a Doane Mathematics and Data Analytics (MDA) major, Clevette had already conducted research in data science and data analytics as part of the degree program. She also attended the Nebraska Conference for Undergraduate Women in Mathematics, which inspired her to pursue additional research opportunities. She spoke with MDA faculty about her experience at NCUWM and her desire to conduct research over the summer.

Her initiative sparked conversations within the department about UREs that she could apply for. She received a list of opportunities from faculty, and one immediately jumped out: the URE program in Data Science at NC A&T, in Greensboro.

Clevette had enjoyed her data science research experience at Doane, so the opportunity to get more experience in that field strongly appealed to her. She leaned on the relationships she'd built with her professors as she prepared her application.

“Peggy Hart and Barbara Herzog were both a tremendous help in helping me with the application process,” Clevette said.

She submitted a written application with a resume, essays and recommendation letters. She was invited to interview on Zoom. Clevette described her interview as “extensive,” exactly what you might expect for a research program funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Security Administration. Clevette and just fourteen other students from universities around the country were accepted to the URE program.

During the first two weeks, Clevette and the other students learned about cutting-edge data science and mathematics topics from professors at NC A&T, North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. They also participated in workshops about programming software they could use during their research experience. The students’ research projects incorporated many ideas shared in these presentations and workshops, including Python (a high-level programming language) and R (a statistical programming software used by major corporations.)

The students were paired and tasked with identifying a research project. Clevette and her partner landed on a hot topic: machine learning.

“Together our goal was to find a more precise way to find a new and more accurate solution to detect energy consumption anomalies based on existing micro-movement features,” she said.

This required Clevette and her partner to code machine-learning algorithms in Python.

Each week, she gave an update about their progress. Clevette said that presenting her research project updates was much easier for her than for other students in her cohort — an observation she credits to her Doane experience.

“The MDA department at Doane does an excellent job of preparing students in communication skills within classes, which is something I found to be very helpful during my research experience,” Clevette said.

At the end of the 10-week URE, Clevette shared their findings in a final presentation, Detecting Energy Consumption Anomalies Through Micro-Moment Features. She said the experience at NC A&T helped her learn how to research and think about concepts differently. It also helped her learn about different opportunities that are available to her after graduation.

“While I knew I wanted to go to graduate school after graduation, my research experience cemented that in,” Clevette said.

She encourages other Doane students to consider applying for UREs related to their career goals.

“I would highly recommend this experience to other students,” Clevette said. “It was one of the best experiences I’ve had.”