CCU’s Shawn McDonald selected for DAAD RISE Germany to conduct research on AI-based optics in self-driving cars

Research | May 22, 2024

Coastal Carolina University student Shawn McDonald will travel to Germany this summer as part of the DAAD RISE (Research Internships in Science and Engineering) program.

DAAD RISE offers undergraduate students from North American, British, and Irish universities the opportunity to complete a summer research internship at top German universities and research institutions. Students are matched with a host university or institute according to their area of interest. German language is not required, as the working language is English. RISE Germany is funded by the German Federal Foreign Office.

CCU’s Shawn McDonald selected for DAAD RISE Germany to conduct research on AI-based optics in self-driving cars

For 12 weeks this summer, McDonald will conduct research at Hochschule Düsseldorf - University of Applied Sciences. He will work alongside a small group of Ph.D. students, researching AI-based optics in self-driving cars. McDonald will be one of two undergraduates on the team.

“We will explore machine learning in optics and attempt to uncover how specific optical properties might influence machine learning outcomes,” said McDonald. “We will discover the relationship between camera characteristics, lens properties, and their role in machine learning-based camera calibration and sensor fusion (camera-lidar).”

McDonald is a rising junior majoring in computer science with a minor in applied mathematics. He was born in Kyrgyzstan and lived there for eight years before moving to America. He has lived in Myrtle Beach since he was in high school.

McDonald was interested in applying for the DAAD RISE program for the opportunities it brought for both travel and research.

“I was immediately attracted to the opportunity to travel doing what I enjoy,” said McDonald. “I haven’t traveled internationally since sixth grade, and I have never traveled alone. The DAAD RISE brings the perfect opportunity to step over that barrier while still meeting my academic goals of contributing to the advancement of Artificial Intelligence. The main difference I saw between the DAAD RISE and other summer programs was the challenges that come with working in a new country/environment. This interested me because I am always looking for opportunities that provide challenges that will lead to growth.”

McDonald thanks CCU’s Nicholas Harmon, Ph.D., professor of engineering and physics, William Jones, Ph.D., professor of computing sciences, and Judith Zang, director of national scholarships, for encouraging him to take advantage of this opportunity.

“I am confident that the research with Hochschule Düsseldorf will significantly advance my skills in applied AI to solve complex problems,” said McDonald. “The DAAD RISE opportunity will strengthen my foundation for possible graduate studies in the field and continued collaborative work with German scientists. It will be an excellent step in equipping me with the experience and knowledge to work on future groundbreaking advancements.”

In 2023, McDonald was awarded the Old Dominion University National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates. Outside of his studies, he is involved with CCU’s Ultimate Frisbee Club.

Written by Kristyn Winch, HTC Honors College.

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