Information Sciences and Technology

IST student's research involves tracking elephant movement

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — For many students at Penn State, opportunities to blend extracurricular opportunities with classroom knowledge lead to the development of well-rounded skill sets that will position them for successful careers.

Gregory Glatzer, a junior majoring in applied data science in the College of Information Sciences and Technology, is one of those students, who has discovered undergraduate research as a way to benefit his own career development while making an impact in the world. Glatzer spent his summer helping to evaluate how technology could be used to track elephant movement in national parks in Africa to help prevent poaching.

“My research uses a clustering algorithm to look at elephant movement data to try to identify patterns,” Glatzer said.

Glatzer first got involved with undergraduate research after looking for an opportunity to advance his education during the summer of 2021. That was when he connected with Prasenjit Mitra, professor of information sciences and technology, who is co-leading the research project along with Johnson Kinyua, associate teaching professor. Glatzer knew Mitra from a previous course he had taken in data science.

“I had worked with him before and liked working with him,” Glatzer said. “So, it was a good opportunity to do research.”

Glatzer felt prepared for this research role after both his classroom knowledge and other extracurricular work. Tracking elephant movement requires a lot of data visualization, with which Glatzer had ample experience after taking an entire class dedicated to topic.

“One big focus of the class was mapping, and that is a really important skill for data scientists,” Glatzer said. “The research that I did has opened my eyes to the many amazing applications of data science that exist in various domains.”

As a result of this research opportunity, Glatzer has become the first author on a paper titled "An Analysis of Elephants’ Movement Data in Sub-Saharan Africa Using Clustering," which he will be presenting at the TAWIRI Scientific Conference in December.

“From this experience I hope to network with other people in the field, get my name out there and appreciate what other groundbreaking technology-driven work is being done in the wildlife conservation domain,” Glatzer said.

Gregory Glatzer Credit: ProvidedAll Rights Reserved.

Apart from research and school work, Glatzer is a passionate musician who plays the clarinet, piano, saxophone and flute.

“I played all four throughout elementary school, middle school, high school and now college,” Glatzer said. “I was in a band and now I do a lot of jazz stuff. My freshman year, we went to Carnegie Hall and played there. That was pretty cool.”

But Glatzer does more than just play the instruments. He draws on his analytical background to make an impact for his creative passion.

Intonation, or the accuracy of pitch, in the world of music is full of ambiguity and variation, which is something that did not sit right with Glatzer. Using his data science skills, Glatzer set out to create a solution.

“Me being a big STEM and data science guy, I want to quantify everything,” Glatzer said. “I initially made a visualization of my own intonation. I wrote down everything and showed it to my professor in class and he really liked it, so I went gung-ho and made an entire website for others to do it too.”

Glatzer also showcases the well-rounded skill set he has gained at the College of IST in University-wide initiatives, most recently through participation in the Nittany AI Challenge. Glatzer has been virtually working with a team for OpenVessel, a project whose goal is to develop a liver-lesion detection and classification system.

“The role that I have played in the Nittany AI project has not been focused on data science even though that is my major,” Glatzer said. “I do a lot of front-end development, but at the same time I find myself working with the back-end team. A lot of what I do is more than data science and machine learning stuff. I need to be aware of both parts to make the whole application work.”  

After working with his teammates for months during the pandemic, Glatzer was invited back to campus for a day to take headshots.

“It was a surreal experience to walk into the room and just see the guys that I had been working with virtually for a year,” Glatzer said.

To round out his college experience and skill development, Glatzer also is a member of the IST Diplomats through which he serves as a student ambassador for the College of IST. He enjoys participating on panel discussions during visits with prospective students and their families.

“It is totally different from any kind of academic stuff that I do,” Glatzer said. ‘It’s all soft skills based so it’s a nice change of pace and a completely different way to think.”

After graduation, Glatzer plans to work in a data analytics-based role, or a technology consulting job. The experiences he’s gained from Penn State have prepared him for this role.

Last Updated November 04, 2021