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archiveOutstanding Undergraduate Researchers

2008 Sponsor: Mitsubishi Electric Research Labs
Mitsubishi Electric Research Labs and Microsoft Research are sponsors in alternate years.

2008 Selection Committee
Richard Waters (Mitsubishi Electric Research Labs), Chair; David Novick (University of Texas, El Paso); Clement Lam (Concordia University); Geoff Keunning (Harvey Mudd College); and Lynn Stein (Olin College).

2008Rachel Sealfon

Female Awardee

2008 Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Award Awardee Senior at Princeton University

Rachel Sealfon is a senior at Princeton University majoring in Computer Science.

Rachel’s research is in the area of bioinformatics. Working largely independently, she developed a novel system for Gene Ontology analysis, search and exploration. She is the lead author of a paper on this research that has been published in BMC Bioinformatics (one of the main journals in the field). Her paper received stellar reviews and a lot of attention in the field, and her system is being used by biology researchers in many institutions.

Rachel has a near-perfect GPA in a diverse and demanding range of courses. In addition, she is a talented writer and has won several awards for her writing. One essay won the National Gilder Lehrman Prize in 2004 for the best essay on American History published in The Concord Review, the only journal to publish exemplary historical writing by high school students.

2008Kevin Dick

Male Awardee

2008 Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Award Awardee Senior at California Institute of Technology

Kevin Dick is a senior at the California Institute of Technology majoring in Computer Science and Mathematics.

Kevin has worked on two major research projects. The first involves understanding the impact of caches on the performance of algorithms. Kevin developed a variant of the FFT that yields optimal use of hardware prefetching, which resulted in a workshop paper given by Kevin and a paper describing a mathematical model of prefetching. The second project concerns DNF minimization, which is perhaps the most natural and important example of a problem that is “even harder” than NP. Kevin contributed key insights that lead to tight bounds on the approximability of a class of DNF minimization problems.

In addition to working on his research projects, Kevin has maintained a high GPA in a demanding course schedule and has served as a teaching assistant.

2008Chuan Sheng Foo

Male Awardee

2008 Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Award Awardee at Stanford University

Chuan Sheng Foo is a junior at Stanford University majoring in Computer Science who intends to graduate in spring 2008.

Chuan Sheng’s research interests lie in the areas of machine learning and data mining. He has recently worked on two major research projects. The first involves the automatic tuning of regularization hyperparameters for a class of machine-learning models. In collaboration with a graduate student, Chuan Sheng implemented a solution based on deep understanding of the relevant mathematics that is both elegant and effective. A publication describing this work has been accepted by NIPS, a top machine-learning conference. The second project involves the prediction of RNA secondary structure. Chuan Sheng co-developed an innovative machine-learning based algorithm for the simultaneous folding and alignment of RNA sequences that is both more accurate and an order of magnitude faster than previous methods on realistic inputs. A paper describing this work is currently being written.

Chuan Sheng got his first taste of research in the four months between completing his compulsory Singapore military service and entering college. At the Institute for Infocomm Research in Singapore, he worked on a system to automatically identify protein complexes based on protein interaction data. The resulting paper won the Best Paper Award at the 16th International Conference on Genome Informatics in 2005.

2008Raluca Ada Popa

Female Runner-Up

2008 Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Runner-Up Junior at Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Raluca Ada Popa is a junior at Massachusetts Institute of Technology majoring in Computer Science and Mathematics.

At MIT, Raluca has been involved in two main research projects. The first project is theoretical in nature and concerns the auditing of computerized elections. Specifically, it concerns tight upper bounds on the number of ballots that need to be hand-counted in order to be confident in the results of voting system software. She contributed a central proof that resulted in a publication that she presented while only a sophomore. The second project concerns cooperative caching techniques for huge databases spread across large numbers of servers; it focuses in particular on fault tolerance in the face of dynamically changing sets of servers, some of which may be behaving maliciously. She has developed solutions for two key aspects of this system. Apaper on these results is in preparation.

After spending her freshman year at Cal Tech, Raluca transferred to MIT, maintaining a perfect GPA at both institutions. In the summer between, Raluca worked on a research project at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign that resulted in a paper at SOSP, of which she is a co-author. It is rare indeed for anyone to be an author on papers based on research in each undergraduate year.

Finalists (Female)

Adrienne Felt, University of Virginia
Iris Howley, Drexel University
Donya Quick, Southern Methodist University
Franziska Roesner, University of Texas at Austin

Finalists (Male)

Adrian Dalca, University of Toronto
Henry DeYoung, Carnegie Mellon University
Lawrence Erickson, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Eugene Greene, University of Windsor
Evan Hoke, Carnegie Mellon University
Arthur Mahoney, Utah State University
Rajesh Ramakrishnan, Columbia University
Yuanchen Zhu, Harvard University

Honorable Mentions (Female)

Lucy Abramyan, Harvey Mudd College
Tanya Cashorali, Northeastern University
Margaret (Meg) Davis, Texas A&M University
Jennifer Dolson, University of Virginia
Polina Dudnik, Binghamton University, SUNY
Alana Edmunds, Syracuse University
Gwendolyn Einfeld, Calvin College
Alina Ene, Princeton University
Maja Frydrychowicz, McGill University
Ekaterina Gonina, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Paola Gonzalez, University of South Florida
Natasha Kholgade, Rochester Institute of Technology
Siu Yu Cherie Kwan, Cornell University
Katrina LaCurts, University of Maryland
Dhivya Padmanabhan, Texas A&M University
Katrina Panovich, Indiana University,
Bloomington Lori Pietraszek, Hobart and William Smith Colleges
Cristina Pop, University of British Columbia
Kirsten Stark, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Catherine Wah, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Kristina Wanous, University of Northern Iowa
Dana Wen, University of Washington
Juliette Zerick, University of Mary Washington
Irene Zhang, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Honorable Mentions (Male)

Kurt Ackermann, Purdue University
Kareem Amin, Cornell University
Mitchell Beard, Georgetown University
Gilbert Bernstein, University of Texas at Austin
Kyle Byerly, Iowa State University
Lee Callender, University of Michigan
Rhys Causey, University of Toronto
Jackie Cheung, University of British Columbia
Nicholas Christman, Dartmouth College
Matthew Chu, University of Pennsylvania
Brendan Collins, Princeton University
Darren Davis, University of San Diego
Morgan Dixon, University of Maryland
Jonathon Duerig, University of Utah
Jason Fennell, Harvey Mudd College
Jeffrey Fielding, Dartmouth College
Marc Godard, Queen's University
Colin Gordon, Brown University
Mahlon Graham, University of Virginia
Arthur Guez, McGill University
Ian Haken, University of California, Berkeley
Paul Himes, Michigan Technological University
Nicholas Jalbert, University of Virginia
Aaron Johnson, Carnegie Mellon University
Christopher Jones, University of California, Berkeley
Kevin Karsch, University of Missouri - Columbia
Stephen Kent, University of Texas at Austin
Zachary Kincaid, University of Western Ontario
Michael Krainin, University of Massachusetts
Amherst Kevin Lai, University of British Columbia
George Lucchese, Texas A&M University
Mikola Lysenko, Michigan Technological University
Patrick Marion, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Grant Miller, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
David Morrison, Harvey Mudd College
Mark Rawls, University of Virginia
Fady Samuel, University of Waterloo
Tyler Steele, Cornell University
Matt Swanson, Iowa State University
Kartik Talamadupula, Arizona State University
David Tepper, University of Washington
James Thiel, Drexel University
Anthony Waters, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Caleb Wells, Texas A&M University
Sam Whittle, University of Washington
Marc Winners, Drexel University
Benjamin Wood, Williams College
Loren Yu, Stanford University
Luke Zarko, University of Pennsylvania

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