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A Well-Rounded Education

Mary Everett’s Ph.D. Journey From Marketing Grad to AI Pioneer in Precision Agriculture

Mary Everett found her calling.

When the Computer Science and Engineering student signed up for marketing courses at the University of Idaho in Moscow right out of high school, she didn’t know robots were in her future – lots of them.

Everett, who completed her doctorate in Computer Science this fall, said it was an unexpected journey.

“I definitely did not think I would end up with a Ph.D. in computer science – I started with a bachelor’s in marketing from the College of Business and Economics,” Everett said. “I enjoyed both my degrees, and it was amazing to have so many opportunities to do different things with my education.”

Once in Moscow, opportunities started popping up for the Lewiston native in town and in Coeur d’Alene. A flyer advertising a student work opportunity led her to the university’s Biodiesel Education Program, where a supervisor noticed her technical ability and encouraged her to try some STEM courses.

A student works on a computer under an apple tree while another student stands under a pole-mounted solar-powered weather monitoring system.
U of I Coeur d’Alene computer science students Mary Everett, left, and Lacey Hunt work on an automated weather monitoring system at the university’s Sandpoint Organic Agriculture Center.

 “I ended up with minors in math, computer science and Spanish before being recruited for graduate school in Coeur d’Alene for my Ph.D.,” Everett said.

After completing her marketing degree in 2020, Everett was recruited by research faculty John Shovic to the University of Idaho Coeur d’Alene, where the university’s Center for Intelligent Industrial Robotics is headquartered.

Coeur d’Alene is also one of the most beautiful places I have ever lived – our office is right on the lake and in my free time I can swim, hike and explore downtown all within walking distance of the program.Mary Everett, doctoral student computer science.

“I think a lot of people don’t realize you can get a bachelor’s all the way up to your Ph.D. in computer science on the Coeur d’Alene campus without going to the main campus,” Everett said. “We have a great group up here and a fun community to study and learn with. Coeur d’Alene is also one of the most beautiful places I have ever lived – our office is right on the lake and in my free time I can swim, hike and explore downtown all within walking distance of the program.”

Everett completed her master’s degree in spring of 2023 with a focus on sensor systems and earned her doctorate degree in fall 2023 with a dissertation on artificial intelligence for precision agriculture and medicine.

Her work included a collaborative project with fellow computer science students and a vineyard in Virginia. Everett and two other Coeur d’Alene students built and installed an artificial intelligence system called SCARECRO to equip an automated winery. The system gives vintners actionable microclimate and environmental information, including humidity, temperature, soil moisture and acidity data, to help inform their growing and business practices, reduce power consumption and cut down on operating costs.

John Shovic, Ph.D.

Research Faculty; Director of the Center for Intelligent Industrial Robotics

Hedlund Building 204A

Campus: Coeur d'Alene
Courses: Advanced Robotics I/II, Machine Vision, Embedded Systems, Real Time Operating Systems
Areas of Expertise: Robotics, Entrepreneurship, Embedded Systems, AI Techniques, Python, Hardware Interfacing, Robotic Applications, Manufacturing Automation

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Everett’s research and development sent her across the county, nation and world – the trio not only installed a similar SCARECRO system at the university’s Sandpoint Organic Agriculture Center, but also traveled to the East Coast in summer 2022 to install the system for a vineyard in Winchester, Virginia with technical and financial support from Dustin and Jacklyn Mommen of Laurel Grove Wine Farm. Over the past summer, Everett took SCARECRO across the pond to present to an international audience at the European Conference on Precision Agriculture in Bologna, Italy.

And Everett’s not quite finished yet at U of I Coeur d’Alene. The spring, she will begin a postdoctoral research position with the Center for Industrial Intelligent Robotics with a research focus on precision agriculture sensor networks and artificial intelligence data analysis techniques for precision agriculture and manufacturing.

Through it all, Everett said the best part of being a Vandal is being part of the Vandal Family.

“I have incredible professors and the best research team a person could ask for,” Everett said. “I have also had the opportunity to do so many things – present at a conference in Italy, install sensors in Virginia, attend a robotics talk in New Orleans, intern at NASA Ames, test radios on the lake, make a robot disco dance. It’s an educational experience like no other.”

A U of I student wearing a trash bag smiles as a professor speaks in front of a table of supplies to make a pizza in a coding activity.
Mary Everett and U of I Coeur d’Alene Associate Professor Bob Rinker give instructions to high school juniors during Women in Science and Engineering Day in Coeur d’Alene. In the activity, Everett followed students’ instructions to make a pizza as a robot would to teach students about the importance of specificity in coding.

Article by Megan Snodgrass, University of Idaho CDA.

Photos by Megan Snodgrass, Joe Pallen and Garrett Wells.

Published in December 2023.

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Moscow, ID 83844-4264

Phone: 208-885-6111

Fax: 208-885-9119