KSU Alumna Presents Research at Posters on the Hill Virtually

KENNESAW, Ga. | Apr 20, 2020

Kara Heller seeks to make a lasting impact on the environment

Computational mathematics graduate Kara Heller hopes to make the world a greener place as she presents her research on electric vehicles and energy conservation to U.S. legislators at the Posters on the Hill on April 21. This is the third consecutive year a Kennesaw State University student has been chosen to participate in the national event that will take place virtually amid the current public health concerns.

“I am so thankful to be invited to Posters on the Hill,” said Heller, who earned her bachelor’s degree in December 2019. “I have recently graduated and feel like this is the best ending to an incredible undergraduate experience at Kennesaw State University. Continuing to work on my clear communication skills while presenting at Posters on the Hill will set me up for success in my career.”

Kara Heller

The Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) sponsors Posters on the Hill, with support from the American Chemical Society (ACS) and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers-USA. Only the top undergraduates from across the country are invited to participate after being judged by a national panel of experts in their fields.

Heller is one of two Georgia representatives to present at the event. Ordinarily taking place in Washington, D.C., the event begins at noon on Twitter. Along with the presentation, Heller will have the opportunity to discuss her findings via phone with state and national politicians.

Heller, a native of Canton, Georgia, became involved in undergraduate research at KSU while interning at Cobb Electric Membership Corporation (Cobb EMC). Her research was built on her experience as an intern in corporate analytics, involving Cobb EMC’s time-of-use plan for its electric vehicle customers, which would provide free electrical power between midnight and 6 a.m.

“My research is different than any of the previous approaches people have taken. Other research has focused on programmable thermostats, motion detector light switches, and switching high energy consumption activities, like laundry, to off-peak hours.” she said. “I would like people to walk away from my project thinking about their own energy patterns and how they can minimize their impact on the environment.”

Heller’s research focused on utilizing a predictive statistical model to determine which Cobb EMC customers drove electric vehicles, so they could be contacted to consider a greener plan that employs the charging of vehicles during off-peak times. 

If customers use this more energy efficient plan, Heller said, the extra high-cost power-generation facilities will not need to come online to meet peak demand, resulting in reduced pollution. Switching the power to off-peak times also reduces company costs for electricity, and those savings are transferred to the customers who chose the greener time-of-use plan. 

Heller has also presented her research during a poster session to Georgia legislators at the Posters at the Georgia State Capitol in February. In addition, her research was accepted for presentation at the 2020 National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR), and she placed third in the undergraduate poster category at the 2019 R-Day, a research showcase hosted by KSU’s Department of Statistics and Analytical Sciences every year.

Heller, who also minored in applied statistics and data analysis, said that she wants to continue research on big data analytics projects within the university and the community when she applies to pursue a Master of Science in Applied Statistics at KSU.

She said she believes in the value of undergraduate research as it allows for the flexibility to explore unique interests and the opportunity to utilize analytics in more creative ways than classes can provide. She credits her faculty mentor, senior lecturer of statistics Susan Mathews Hardy, to her success as a researcher during her time at KSU and said that working alongside Hardy was the best part of her KSU experience.

“Professor Hardy is an irreplaceable faculty member who has had a huge impact on not only my college journey, but on my entire career path and life,” said Heller. “There are not enough words in the world for her or anybody else to understand how truly inspirational she has been.”

“You cannot help but catch Kara’s love of graphics. She glows as she shares heat maps, mosaic plots and most recently data displays in Tableau,” said Hardy. “Kara loves research and is gifted at conveying the conclusions of her research with excellent graphics. Posters on the Hill choose a great student to convey how important sustainability is to our nation.”

Landon Mion

Related Stories

A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 45,000 students. Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia with 11 academic colleges. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 7 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.