Computing for the Greater Good
Adam Lechowicz '22
Computer Science and Political Science
Commonwealth Honors College
“Our society faces monumental challenges that won't go away anytime soon. With the right motivations, I strongly believe that computer science can be an indispensable tool in the fight against issues such as climate change and socioeconomic injustice.”
For Adam Lechowicz ’22 of Bridgewater, Mass., participating in research has not only deepened his understanding of academic concepts, but also allowed him to apply them for the “purpose of solving real-world challenges and open questions.”
Lechowicz has leveraged his dual majors in computer science and political science to pursue research and innovation that benefits society. In March 2021, he joined a project advised by Cameron Musco, assistant professor in the Manning College of Information & Computer Sciences, seeking to model through simulation and spectral graph theory how the structure of social networks causes the development of opinion polarization and disagreement.
“Understanding these dynamics is a first step toward designing interventions that help societies engage in dialogue and manage differences in opinion,” says Lechowicz.
According to Musco, Lechowicz has led all experimental design for the project, and has written significant portions of the paper. “He is already operating at the level of a second- or third-year PhD student in terms of independence and ability to execute,” he says.
Lechowicz’s work on this project forms the basis of his honors thesis and, he anticipates, will result in multiple academic papers.
The great thing about ‘failing’ in the research I’ve done is that even ‘bad’ questions give us direction to ask a different question. Every so often, that different question gives us a surprising result that pushes the field forward.
Additionally, in June 2021, Lechowicz joined the Laboratory for Advanced System Software led by Prashant Shenoy, associate dean of computing and facilities and distinguished professor in the Manning College of Information & Computer Sciences. In collaboration with PhD candidate Bhawana Chhaglani, Lechowicz has worked on projects to design intelligent systems that sense and manage indoor air quality—a particularly salient issue during the COVID-19 pandemic. In one project, called FlowSense, the researchers discovered that using machine learning and a commodity microphone, they could extract inaudible low-frequency vibrations and accurately estimate the amount of air being circulated in a room. This research resulted in a conference paper published in a prestigious journal, the Proceedings of the Association for Computing Machinery on Interactive, Mobile, Wearable and Ubiquitous Technologies (ACM IMWUT).
Lechowicz enjoys the “feeling of flow” while working on a research project, as well as the satisfaction he experiences when “asking the right questions.”
But, he adds, “Most of the times, we’re not asking the right questions—that’s why it’s research! The great thing about ‘failing’ in the research I’ve done is that even ‘bad’ questions give us direction to ask a different question. Every so often, that different question gives us a surprising result that pushes the field forward.”
Outside of his studies, Lechowicz is involved in student government, UMass’s flexible learning initiatives, and advocacy to support student well-being during the pandemic. He is also editor-in-chief of the university’s student yearbook, The Index, which he helped revive after 16 years.
“I have never seen an undergraduate succeed as resoundingly as Adam has—in research, academics, and student leadership,” says Musco.
In fall 2022, Lechowicz will enter UMass Amherst’s MS/PhD program in computer science. In the future, he hopes to complete a post-doctoral fellowship and continue a career in academic research as a professor.
“I'm passionate about researching applications of computing that serve the public good and improve lives. Our society faces monumental challenges that won't go away anytime soon. With the right motivations, I strongly believe that computer science can be an indispensable tool in the fight against issues such as climate change and socioeconomic injustice,” he says.
Lechowicz urges other undergraduates who are interested in research to take advantage of the great opportunities at UMass Amherst. “All it takes is an email or a question after class to get involved in a project.”