Mac Vogelsang

Analyzing Data & Working for the FBI: Mac Vogelsang

By: Kelsey Blaylock, Engaged Learning Student Media Team

After being accepted into the Cox Research Scholars Program and completing Project STEM while attending Blooming High School North, Mac Vogelsang knew he wanted to continue to pursue his research and education at Indiana University. Vogelsang is a current junior at IU majoring in cognitive science and computer science with a minor in mathematics. Since he was a senior in high school, Vogelsang has been interested in the field of cognitive science. Upon teaching himself how to program JavaScript and Python, he decided to put his computer science skills to the test and apply for Project STEM.  

Project STEM is an Indiana University program in collaboration with the IU Psychology and Brain Sciences Department and the IU Office of Science Outreach designed to get high school students involved in research by placing them in research labs at IU over the summer. In addition to Project STEM, Vogelsang is active in the Cox Research Scholars Program, which requires him to do research 8-10 hours a week throughout his four years at IU. 

Through Project STEM, Vogelsang was placed in a research lab with Dr. Tom Busey, where he studied the cognitive science and decision making of expert fingerprint examiners. Busey selected Vogelsang for his programming skills, and Vogelsang applied them by creating experiments and analyzing data. “The field of cognitive science was fascinating, so I decided to pursue it as a major along with computer science,” said Vogelsang.

Vogelsang has been collaborating and working under Dr. Busey for the past four years studying human expertise, perception, and decision making as it relates to forensic science. One of the lab’s primary research objectives is to improve the way current fingerprint examiners study prints and reduce errors by researching the underlying mental processes and visual techniques that they currently rely on to help them make decisions.  

I think research is a valuable experience to have as an undergraduate no matter what someone's path after graduation may be.

In addition to his research commitments, Vogelsang is the managing editor for IU’s Journal of Undergraduate Research (IUJUR). Being a part of IUJUR since his freshman year, he climbed his way from serving as a reviewer for social sciences, to a chair of the Technology Board, to his current leadership position as managing editor. Vogelsang plans on becoming one of the two co-editors-in-chief during his senior year.

Within his role of being IUJUR’s managing editor, Vogelsang handles all incoming submissions, which undergo lengthy review processes through the student editorial board and the faculty review board. Vogelsang also facilitates IUJUR’s article revisions and publications, co-operates with the co-editors-in-chief with planning outreach events, organizes membership meetings, and develops new ways to help IUJUR expand across IU.

Vogelsang has received many exciting opportunities that have taken him beyond Sample Gates through his activity and leadership in undergraduate research. He had the chance to visit the FBI Headquarters in Quantico, VA the summer before his sophomore year after being contacted by Noblis, a nonprofit science, technology, and strategy organization. Vogelsang and others were asked to collect eye-tracking data for an FBI research study on fingerprint examiners for three weeks.

Vogelsang also attended the International Association for Identification Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he gave a brief speech about his cognitive science research, while he also helped Dr. Busey facilitate a workshop about a perceptual expertise training tool they were developing. Throughout his time here at Indiana University, Vogelsang has received significant support from his mentors and faculty members. 

I couldn't have asked for a better mentor than Tom Busey. He gave me my own project early on, which really helped accelerate my research career.

After Vogelsang receives his bachelor’s degree from IU, he plans on attending graduate school for a doctorate in cognitive science. As of right now, he is open to what the future has in store for him.

 “Maybe I'll work in the tech industry for a bit and then return to school, or maybe I'll do those things in the reverse order. Either way, I like to keep my options open because my interests could change, and new opportunities can always arise,” said Vogelsang. 

Interested in learning more about undergraduate research experiences at IU? There are several programs at IU that can help students get involved, such as Outreach for Undergraduate Research in STEM, STARS, or IUJUR.  Contact a faculty member or graduate student whose research interests you, or visit one of IU’s research centers to learn more about how you can get involved.