College:College of Engineering and Computer Science
Degree Program:Computer Vision MS
Research Focus:Computer vision, renewable energy, generative/diffusion modeling
As the child of a Chinese immigrant mother and a Scots-Irish American father, Melody Halbert knows the value of community. Watching her mother, who moved alone to the United States in her mid-20s, helped her understand just how important it is to have a support network. “I believe knowing her story and struggle has given me a different perspective on life than I otherwise would have had,” she says. “I have learned that community is critical toward your growth; you cannot live life in solitude, and it applies in many places, whether at school or work. Surrounding yourself with like-minded people and cultivating a select group of people who will support you while you grow is one of the most important things you will do in your life.”
Today, as a woman working in a male-dominated field, the community has become even more important for Halbert. She earned her undergraduate degree in Computer Science from UCF in 2022 and is working toward her master’s degree in Computer Vision at UCF, the first public university to offer the program. “Throughout my undergraduate career, and even as I continue today in graduate school, I have always been one-of-a-few women sitting in the lecture hall,” she says. “Although intimidating at first, it has pushed me to work harder to prove that I deserve to be in the room. The tough reality is that the real world and the workplace may continue to look like that lecture hall does, but I feel prepared for that now.”
Halbert says engaging in the UCF community has helped her integrate and adjust to college life. She credits the Burnett Honors College and the College of Engineering and Computer Science with creating a welcoming environment and enabling her to develop meaningful relationships with her peers. The support of her college has made it possible for her to feel comfortable with coding, despite having no prior experience. “Students do not have to be intimidated by trying something new and complex when they have the support of active and caring professors who want you to succeed,” she says. While the COVID-19 pandemic made community engagement difficult, Halbert now feels she is taking advantage of every opportunity. “Between becoming more involved at UCF through the Graduate Student Advisory Council to beginning my graduate studies, I feel like I am finally maximizing my time at UCF,” she says.
Currently, Halbert is working on narrowing down her independent studies. Her areas of interest include the ethics and privacy in novel generative modeling, as well as the application of diffusion modeling in analyzing brain scans or responses and being able to decode mental states to generate images or videos. Halbert is also passionate about using her work to preserve the environment. After spending a summer living on a ranch in Cimarron, New Mexico, she gained a deep appreciation for the outdoors and wanted to do something fulfilling through her work. “This summer shaped my outlook on the world and guided me toward finding a job in either Computer Science or Computer Vision that could help the environment,” she says. She wants to explore pairing computer vision techniques with agricultural data to automate crop predictions and predict soil conditions.
In addition to her academic endeavors, Halbert is an executive assistant to the president of a non-profit consulting company; and is working on the start-up business she co-launched through a competition run by the U.S. Department of Energy. In her senior year, she competed in The American-Made Solar Prize Round 5: Software Track with a team of two undergraduate students, a post-doctoral researcher, and a professor. As a competition designed to lead innovation and fund new ideas, they took ideas sparked from research at UCF and began a business from scratch. Her team made it through two of the three rounds, winning $90,000 during the competition. “This unique opportunity has given me a new outlook on what interests me in the field of technology, like the application of AI in renewable energy, and has given me new strengths and experiences that not many can say they have at my age,” she says.
When she graduates in 2024, Halbert hopes to continue her work on the start-up business and seeks to combine her interests in renewable energy and the environment with her background in computer vision. “In the end, I wish to focus my time and energy on topics that can positively impact the well-being of our environment and planet through the capabilities of computer vision and automation.”
- Graduate Student Advisory Council Member
- Part of UCF's unique Computer Vision program
- Participated in U.S. Department of Energy competition and launched a start-up company
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