What’s Next: Fusing Interests in Undergraduate Research

By Alicia Gregory, Whitney Harder

(Aug. 10, 2015) — Computer science and the St. Chad Gospels. Physics and Spanish. Math and international studies. The combination of these don't seem to make a lot of sense, but it is these interests that have shaped the undergraduate career of one UK senior.

Stephen Parsons, a computer science and international studies major, with minors in physics, Spanish and mathematics, has thrived in a range of studies during his time at UK.

He has also worked in research that merged the fields of computer science and humanities. Parsons, who is a Chellgren Fellow, Gaines Fellow and member of the Honors Program at UK, worked for the past year with Brent Seales, professor and chair of the Department of Computer Science, on imaging and digitally preserving the St. Chad Gospels. Doing so allows scholars across the world to easily access the eighth-century manuscript in its true form without causing damage.

"Something I've really gained out of this is that computer science is applicable to so many fields," Parsons said in the video above.

During the project, which was an international collaboration with Lichfield Cathedral in England, Parsons applied registration framework software that someone else developed to images of the St. Chad Gospels to produce results.

This fall, Parsons will step out of the lab, and out of the country, to study abroad in Cusco, Peru, applying his international studies and Spanish education to service opportunities.

"I have really enjoyed my international studies classes and while I might not pursue that as a career, it is important to me to learn about those subjects," Parsons said. "And since I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to have both majors, I figured I'd do it!"

While he will be gone for the entire fall semester, he says he certainly wouldn't rule out working with Seales again during the spring, depending on their schedules.

"Getting to know him has been very valuable," Parsons said. "It (research) fosters kind of a unique relationship between the student and the professor that I don’t get out of the classroom."

As far as his career following graduation, Parsons thinks product management at Google, where he interned this summer, could be a possibility. But if his range of experiences at UK is any indication, the possibilities could be endless.

Parsons' research is featured in the above video, produced by the Vis Center as part of its "What's Next" series. It may also be viewed at "Reveal," the official website for UK Research Media, at http://reveal.uky.edu

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