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Undergrad Pursues Mobile Eco-App Research

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After transferring to NC State in 2015, Tarang Malaviya enrolled in Introduction to Science, Technology and Society.

The course, which explored how advancements in various fields are shaping our culture, was an eye-opener.

“It’s really what inspired me to start thinking about how to seek solutions to current problems,” Malaviya said.  

So, after the course ended, that’s what he did. Responding to a request for interns from the course’s instructor, Communication, Rhetoric and Digital Media doctoral student Eli Typhina, Malaviya began helping with research on how mobile applications can help the public make sustainable choices.

The study, led by Typhina, looked at two different methods of developing a mobile app designed to encourage sustainable forestry on family-owned land.

Malaviya assisted with the research for both app designs, which relied heavily on input from different groups of forestry experts, landowners and other participants in focus groups and interviews.

This process has definitely taught me to think analytically about how to find main themes, which would not be possible without doing this kind of inquiry. It leads you to an unknown path no one else has walked before.

— Tarang Malaviya

He prepared for and took notes during the focus group meetings, transcribed the interviews and worked with Typhina to code the transcriptions and brainstorm prototypes for both apps. To read more about Typhina’s study, click here.

Malaviya, a senior majoring in Science, Technology and Society, said it was interesting to translate the participant feedback for the apps into actual wireframes. For instance, based on the input of forestry experts, one app design included locative features that showed soil types, vegetation and property boundaries, among other things. The prototypes included information and contacts for timber sales and social networking as well as resources for carrying out other land uses.

“Say they don’t want to do timber sales on their property, but they would like to look into government programs or lease their land for hunting, the app could provide that information,” Malaviya said. “If your parents passed land on to you, and you don’t have any idea about what to do with it, this app can help you manage your land sustainably by putting resources at your fingertips.”

Typhina hopes to work with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Forestry to develop both app prototypes. She could then test them on users across the state, to see which one functions the best. Her ultimate goal is to create a national app for family forest owners.

Typhina said she encourages other graduate students to consider incorporating undergraduates in their research.

“Graduate students possess valuable knowledge on how to conduct research, and they often have more time to devote to training an undergraduate student than faculty do,” Typhina said. “Additionally, both undergraduate and graduate students learn together as they jointly conduct research.”

Tarang Malaviya, left, a senior majoring in Science, Technology and Society, stands next to his research poster with Communication, Rhetoric and Digital Media doctoral student Eli Typhina. As a research intern, Malaviya worked with Typhina on a study examining how mobile applications can help the public make sustainable choices.

Malaviya received an Undergraduate Research Award for his work with Typhina. He was one of 18 students who received the $1,500 awards in the 2014-15 academic year. Jointly funded by NC State’s Office of the Provost and the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, the awards assist students who are working with scholars who are conducting research.

Prior to this project, Malaviya said he had never conducted scholarly research.

“This process has definitely taught me to think analytically about how to find main themes, which would not be possible without doing this kind of inquiry,” Malaviya said. “It leads you to an unknown path no one else has walked before.”

Malaviya, who transferred to NC State from Wake Technical Community College, said he considered several other programs before joining the Wolfpack, including one at Stanford University. However, he said he quickly found a home in Science, Technology and Society, which he called “freeing.”

“It’s a freedom you get when you are an interdisciplinary major and can pursue something outside  the box, using the knowledge you get inside the box,” Malaviya said. “I have really enjoyed the opportunities that have come along with STS.”

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