Daniel Cotayo

Undergraduate Complexity Research

Daniel Cotayo completed his undergraduate degree in mathematics and computer science at Florida International University in 2023. He was an Undergraduate Complexity Researcher (UCR) at SFI in 2022.

Watch Danny discuss his experience as an Undergraduate Complexity Researcher.

Transcript edited for readability

How would you describe your UCR summer in a word?
My time as a UCR here at SFI has been... I can't really put it into words, honestly I can't even find a word for it. I can maybe find a couple of words. Transformative is one of them. It's been...exciting.

What did you work on during your UCR summer?
So I've been working on a spatial evolutionary learning method with Melanie Mitchell. This is basically training neural networks, or optimizing their parameters, using a genetic algorithm. And so after we create that version, we want to implement the spatial component so that neural networks can interact with each other, let's say, and update themselves based off the fitness of their neighborhood instead of just maybe choosing some individual at random and sexually reproducing with themselves.

In what ways have you grown as a scientist during your UCR summer?
I think I learned to step out of my comfort zone a lot more than I'm used to, let's say. So I've never done a lot of work, or any work let's say, on machine learning or AI in general. You know, I think SFI really instilled in me to chase after something you don't necessarily know, learn in the process, and do something a little bit more than just learning: you're doing a project. you're pushing your own, like, boundaries of knowledge.

What was unique about your experience at SFI?
Yeah, it was definitely unique, but I can't really pinpoint one thing. I guess compared to other REUs, one thing is you're on the same level as faculty. Although, well you know they have more experience and they have degrees and whatnot, but you're really an equal. I think that's something that's not offered anywhere else.

What was your favorite part of your UCR summer?
Favorite part? Well the project, and ups and downs, but the ups are always very good when you get good results and stuff. Just speaking to all the faculty, speaking to all the undergrads, doing stuff on weekends, and seeing the city. Everything's been nice, honestly.


This interview was conducted in July 2022.