A Summer at NetDB@Penn

Jingyi Li, Weitzman Masters in Historic Preservation, 2023

I’ve been lucky enough to explore a variety of fields during my time at Penn. My journey began as a student in the Historic Preservation program at the Design School, where I stumbled upon a strong interest in computer science and data-centric research after taking my first course in computer programming in my first semester at Penn. Since then, I’ve been dedicated to delving into the convergence of design, heritage, digital technology, and the utilization of computer technologies to advance the preservation field. To achieve this, I’ve undertaken courses covering an array of topics, including Geographic Information Systems (GIS), web development, distributed systems, and databases. Diving into a field that’s still under active research has not only driven me to acquire more technical knowledge and skills but also ignited a strong interest of mine in research, particularly within the realm of systems and databases.

Led by this newfound passion and guided by discussions with several professors from Penn Engineering, I made the decision to focus on CS-related research this summer and became a part of the NetDB@Penn team. I collaborated with Ph.D. students and graduates from the Engineering School and centered around crafting a paper on smart contracts, which we submitted by the end of the summer.

This is the very first paper in computer science I’ve worked on and I gained invaluable insights from it. I was able to participate in the entire research cycle, learning the art of constructing a research paper in CS through individual and collaborative efforts. I also delved into the essence of research itself – from conceiving novel ideas and refining them into more complete forms to developing a reliable testing system to evaluate performance and identify potential topics for subsequent discussions. Working closely with Ph.D. students and professors from the Engineering School has opened a door to a potential research career pathway for me. Their guidance has been instrumental in broadening my horizons, particularly the prospect of pursuing a Ph.D. in related fields, a path that was barely on my radar given my background in design.

More importantly, going back to where I came from, my experiences during the summer prompted me to contemplate cutting-edge applications of technologies like blockchain and smart contracts in the realm of design, preservation, and planning. I even discovered that there have been blockchain platforms developed to trace transactions and validate the authentication of artwork; as well as to improve the democratization of fundraising for the preservation of cultural heritage worldwide. The wave of innovation in the heritage realm is truly captivating, offering a plethora of exciting topics to be explored, experimented with, and discussed in the future.

As I navigate this ever-evolving journey, from my origins in design to my current pursuits in computer science and preservation, I remain invigorated by the interplay of these disciplines. The future holds boundless possibilities as I continue to explore uncharted territories and contribute to the dynamic discourse that shapes our evolving world.

This is part of a series of posts by recipients of the 2023 GAPSA Summer Internship Funding Program that is coordinated by Penn Career Services. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they spent their summer. You can read the entire series here.

By Career Services
Career Services