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Stories Behind the Science: Janita Aamir

May 20, 2021

This story is one in a series of stories written by student Makenzie Kohler highlighting student scientists.

Stories Behind the Science: Janita Aamir

This story is one in a series of stories written by student Makenzie Kohler highlighting student scientists. 

From an early age, Janita Aamir knew that she wanted to be a computer scientist. Growing up in Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, Aamir was able to pick a preferred field of study her freshman year of high school. Going against the societal norm, Aamir chose to pursue a predominantly male field, computer science, to prove that women can be successful in STEM fields and not only survive, but thrive. In her words, her goal is, “To prove everyone wrong.” 

When Aamir first arrived in America to start her undergraduate degree, she studied at Augustana University in South Dakota. After her first year, she decided to come to Idaho State University where she was given opportunities more suitable to her needs and soon immersed herself in university life. 

Aamir is the treasurer of the International Student Association, an organization on campus that aims to increase awareness for diversity and other cultures on campus. She also helps international students with their transition into the American collegiate system through her employment at ISU’s International Programs Office. 

Her involvement, however, does not stop there. Aamir is an undergraduate research assistant studying under Dr. Paul Bodily. Her research is supported through ISU’s Career Path Internship program, which provides opportunities for undergraduates to become involved with research on campus. She studies mechanical learning and artificial intelligence of computers to improve detection of vibrations. These vibrations are simulated to convey movement during transportation, which can damage concrete structures.

This research is done with Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID), a type of tracker that uses electromagnetic waves to log frequencies of vibrations. Electromagnetic waves are produced in high amounts when there are shorter distances between waves, showing there is a high frequency being emitted. On the other hand, if there are longer wavelengths (greater distances between waves), the frequency is low. 

To study the vibrational frequencies that can damage concrete during transportation, Aamir uses precast concrete set on a shake table that vibrates, and then frequencies of the shake table are tracked using RFID. This is done many times to simulate scenarios in which different frequencies are tested. By logging frequency values into the computer program to “learn”, theoretically the computer will eventually be able to give a warning that the frequencies detected by the RFID are too high and damage to the concrete could occur.

 Data from these experiments can be used to create tools that will help civil engineers detect frequencies that could potentially harm concrete structures. Hopefully, this will be done by placing RFID onto vehicles to predict if damage could occur at any point during the relocation of the concrete, making transportation more reliable, safer, and cost efficient. 

Being involved in research has helped Aamir with the interaction between coursework and real-life application saying, “alongside learning a lot of things in class, I also get to learn a lot of the applications in computer science that I wouldn't have learned in classes.” These skills will help benefit the rest of her learning career and her future profession.

Aamir has done many things in her life that most people would not dare to try, and she does it with a good heart. She is currently using her skills to help further development of computer science and support students, but has always been someone who wants to help her community too. While in Pakistan, Aamir helped an organization called Bond-E-Shams, which is an organization that aims to bring clean water to the rural areas of Pakistan. The water pumps she was involved with provide water to around 5000 people a day.  

Currently, Aamir is a junior, but she plans to first get her masters and then pursue a doctorate in computer science, with her main focus being cyber security. She wants to continue to do research throughout her career and is excited to explore the different fields that computer science has to offer.

When asked about the advice she would give to other students who share similar backgrounds she has this to say, “Pursuing a stem degree is definitely hard. And there's points where there's ups and downs...but there's always light at the end of the tunnel. So I just like to look at the long term, like my goals and my aspirations, and then I focus on that. That's what keeps me going.”