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Making waves: Undergraduate combines computer science skills, love of water for summer internship

April 9, 2024

Ian Kahn, a senior in computer science at UNM, was born and raised in land-locked New Mexico, but he has always had an affinity for water.

photo: Ian Kahn
Just call him ‘waterjon’: Undergraduate Ian Kahn has found some
creative ways to combine his love of water with passions
in computer science, gaming and even music.

The New Mexico native, who currently holds a part-time job as a lifeguard at UNM’s Johnson Gym, said he always enjoyed when his family would vacation in beach locales, scuba diving in places such as Antigua, and the Turks and Caicos Islands.

This summer, Kahn will get in a lot more beach time through an intensive educational opportunity he has been selected for. He is one of the students from around the country who has been chosen for the Science Communication and Interdisciplinary Ocean Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) called Making Waves, held at the University of South Florida.

Kahn will do research at the College of Maritime Science in St. Petersburg, Fla., from May 19 to July 26. He will work with Mark Luther, an associate professor in physical oceanography at USF, on a project that involves development of artificial intelligence for the navigation and docking of ships.

Students in the REU program receive a stipend, travel funds, housing, professional development workshops, conference travel grants, field trips and a research cruise.

Kahn said one of the factors that made him stand out for the internship was both his computer science major and a minor in gaming — a field that he had once been interested in pursuing.

“I was once interested in pursuing the gaming field, but I changed my mind,” he said. “Turns out, they really wanted someone with gaming experience for this internship. It hit a niche they wanted to fill.”

He is grateful to the staff of the Engineering Student Success Center (ESS), who keep students updated on internship and other professional development opportunities. Kahn said he learned about this opportunity after investigating various internship announcements on websites he had seen through the ESS staff and was particularly intrigued about marine science options, as he is considering going into this field in graduate school.

“The great thing about the REU is that it doesn’t have to be in your field,” pointing out that the majority of other students in the program are in the marine sciences.

He is expected to earn his bachelor’s degree in December, and after that, he will likely attend graduate school. For his remaining semester at UNM, he will be working on another water-related project — this one with Fernando Moreu, an assistant professor in the Gerald May Department of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering — involving augmented reality and submarines.

When he’s not working on school or at a job, he enjoys producing electronic music under the stage name waterjon.

Kahn said that computer science has been a good but challenging major, and he is grateful to UNM for supporting him in his journey.

“With computer science, you have to be disciplined,” he said. “Using the tutors and resources that UNM offers helped me get through.”