AI Scholar Matthew Mapa Harnesses Data for A Safer and Better Tomorrow

By Ines Aviles-Spadoni, M.S., Research Coordinator/Marketing & Communications, UFTI

Matthew Mapa is an AI Scholar and a third-year UF computer science engineering student minoring in statistics.

Matthew Mapa is captivated by the power of data and its potential to help society. That interest led him to the University of Florida, where he is now a third-year computer science engineering student, minoring in statistics. He is also deeply interested in artificial intelligence (AI).

“Since high school, I have always been interested in using data to make positive change through activities like debate and journalism,” Mapa said. “Upon entering UF, my involvement in the Data Science and Informatics Student Organization helped me realize that I wanted to forge a career at the intersection of data and AI, since that is where I felt I could use my technical skills to improve the lives of others.”

Mapa is also an AI Scholar. He received the award on March 20, 2024, and is working with Dr. Xilei Zhao, an assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Coastal Engineering in the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering, in her Smart, Equitable, Resilient Mobility Systems (SERMOS) Lab as part of UF’s AI Scholars program.

“I plan to build a career leveraging data science and artificial intelligence to tackle critical issues in environmental, social, and corporate governance,” Mapa said. “The AI Scholars program will support these goals by giving me the opportunity to develop the latest innovations in AI for disaster response with the SERMOS lab.”

At the SERMOS Lab, Mapa utilizes cutting-edge research that aims to optimize wildfire evacuation strategies through the use of AI. Simply put, AI is being used to save lives by applying what is known as the Hidden Markov model to GPS trajectories to understand what routes or roads people choose when fleeing from a wildfire. Research such as this has real-world implications because saving lives is the number one priority for first responders during any natural disaster and emergency. It will allow emergency management officials to develop better policies for managing wildfire evacuations.

Mapa is very active in the AI space. He is currently a data science intern at Satlantis, LLC, where he is working with AI to detect methane emissions from satellite imagery as a way to curb emissions to reduce climate change. Last summer, he interned as a data analyst at RVO Health, where he supported the data team in developing an AI-based tool to match customers with health products such as solutions for weight loss and well-being decisions.

Students like Mapa, who are driven by a strong desire to impact society positively, are a beacon of hope for the future of AI and its potential to create a better world for all.