Kawther Rouabhi

Photo of Kawther Rouabhi

"Wherever my career takes me, from analyzing the melting of ice caps to volcanic activity to black hole formation, I will strive to make discoveries that drive humanity forward. As a woman and minority in the tech community, I have a mission to show underrepresented individuals that they are capable of being great problem solvers."

 

Hometown: Iowa City, Iowa

Year: Third-year undergraduate student

Program: Computer Science and Engineering

Lab: Ananya Sen Gupta Research Group

AdvisorAnanya Sen Gupta, assistant professor of computer and electrical engineering

What brought you to the Iowa Technology Institute?

My favorite thing about the University of Iowa is its longstanding tradition of welcoming researchers from all walks of life, all experience levels, and all intellectual interests. I began exploring various areas of research at Iowa as a freshman undergraduate student, something I never would have dreamed of this early into my career had it not been for the University’s inviting research spirit. I met Dr. Ananya Sen Gupta in the Spring of my freshman year and learned about her ongoing studies of digital signal processing applications. With Dr. Sen Gupta’s encouragement, I applied for and was honored to earn a research fellowship with Iowa Space Grant Consortium one year ago. Since then, I have had the pleasure of working with the Iowa Technology Institute and University of Iowa Department of Physics and Astronomy under Dr. Sen Gupta’s dedicated mentorship.

What do you work on and what do you enjoy most about your work?

In coordination with Iowa Technology Institute, Iowa Space Grant Consortium, and Dr. Jasper Halekas of UI Physics and Astronomy, Dr. Ananya Sen Gupta and I are developing an algorithm to detect and extract features of solar wind ion trails in the Martian ionosphere using data from the solar wind ion analyzer (SWIA) instrument aboard NASA's MAVEN spacecraft. What intrigues me most about this project is its versatility to other applications, as we demonstrated in partnership with Dr. Craig Kletzing of UI Physics and Astronomy by applying our methods to NASA's Van Allen Probes mission data and detecting chorus elements in earth’s Radiation Belts. My day-to-day research tasks entail programming and debugging MATLAB functions of our algorithm. I am gaining experience testing the algorithm for accuracy and adjusting its parameters accordingly, as well as handling large datasets of mission data.

What achievements are you most proud of?

From presenting alongside Dr. Sen Gupta at the 100th American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in San Francisco to being one of two Americans building a sounding rocket with 22 international students at Andøya Space Center in Norway, I could have never imagined how far investing in my research career would take me. These eye-opening experiences forced me to jump out of my comfort zone, which made them such valuable learning opportunities. Meeting scientists and engineers from around the world with similar aspirations to my own made me ecstatic to be a part of such a vibrant community.

I am most proud of my resilience when conducting my research. Studying something that has never been done before can be tough, especially for someone new to research. Like many student researchers, I faced a lot of imposter syndrome starting out, and I still do sometimes now. When regularly surrounded by people who are experts in their field, students can feel like they can’t possibly make a difference to such skilled teams, but it is crucial for us students to recognize the direct impact of our work and for mentors and PIs to uplift their students in seeing their potential. I am forever grateful for the unwavering support I have received from my mentors at Iowa Technology Institute and the University of Iowa.

What are your goals for the future? What do you hope to be doing professionally in 10 years?

My research experiences at the University of Iowa have driven me to pursue a career engineering artificial intelligence solutions for earth and space science applications. Following my graduation from the University of Iowa, I hope to extend my computer engineering education as a doctoral student, where I will continue to conduct innovative AI research. Wherever my career takes me, from analyzing the melting of ice caps to volcanic activity to black hole formation, I will strive to make discoveries that drive humanity forward. As a woman and minority in the tech community, I have a mission to show underrepresented individuals that they are capable of being great problem solvers.