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archiveOutstanding Undergraduate Researchers

2010 Sponsor: Mitsubishi Electric Research Labs
Mitsubishi Electric Research Labs and Microsoft Research are sponsors in alternate years.

2010 Selection Committee
This year’s selection committee included Dick Waters (Mitsubishi Electric Research Labs) Chair; Michelle Craig (University of Toronto); Ann Gates (University of Texas at El Paso); Eric Grimson (MIT); and Hank Korth (Lehigh University).

2010Justine Sherry

Female Awardee

2010 Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Award Awardee Senior at University of Washington

Justine Sherry is a senior at University of Washington with a double major in Computer Science and International Studies.

A longstanding impediment to the study of the Internet is that it does not explicitly expose information about its topology, paths or performance. Utilizing the IP timestamp option (an obscure and little-used aspect of the IP specification) Justine developed several techniques to measure unknown aspects of the Internet. She contributed critical timestamp-based algorithms to the Reverse Traceroute project, which discovers routing paths from a distant host back to a local source, improving both its accuracy and coverage. Having become probably the world’s greatest expert on the IP timestamp option she then turned to developing solutions to two other Internet measurement problems using IP timestamps: router alias resolution and measuring the one-way latency of backbone links.

In addition to performing valuable research, Justine served last year as vice chair of the student chapter of ACM at her university, where she worked to engage other undergraduate students in research by revamping graduate student poster sessions and introducing the undergraduate research information sessions at the University of Washington. She is currently the chair of the student ACM-W women’s chapter.

2010Elyot Grant

Male Awardee

2010 Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Award Awardee Senior at University of Waterloo

Elyot Grant is a senior at University of Waterloo majoring in Mathematics and Computer Science.

Working under an undergraduate research award, Elyot was presented with a list of well-known open problems and rapidly proceeded to solve several of them. The most important relates to Kuratowski’s theorem on closures in topological spaces and how it relates to formal languages. In particular, he discovered a clever and subtle proof that there is a clopen partition between two words if, and only if, the words do not commute. In the short time since then, Elyot’s ideas on the topological separation of words have already been taken up by researchers in Europe, which shows that these ideas are important and in the mainstream of theoretical computer science.

After completing the work above, Elyot joined a separate research project in the area of Combinatorics and Optimization, and produced interesting results on approximation algorithms for NP-hard covering problems. In addition to possessing mathematical skills, Elyot is an expert programmer and has had a number of programming jobs while in college.

2010Matt McCutchen

Male Awardee

2010 Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Award Awardee Junior at University of Maryland

Richard Matthew McCutchen is a junior at the University of Maryland majoring in Computer Science and Mathematics.

Matt has a long history of research going back to high school. His high school work on the “popular matching” problem (e.g., matching a set of people to jobs trying to satisfy their preferences) has already been cited by several other researchers. At Maryland, Matt has worked on streaming algorithms for clustering and developed a new algorithm for handling outliers. Matt also has worked on various projects in the area of programming languages.

Aside from research, Matt has maintained a near perfect GPA and has had great success at programming contests. He has qualified for the International Olympiad of Informatics three times, winning two gold medals and one silver medal.

2010Lucy Vasserman

Female Runner-Up

2010 Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Runner-Up Senior at Pomona College

Lucy Vasserman is a senior at Pomona College majoring in Computer Science.

Lucy’s research has focused on creating a mood classifier for text—a system that identifies the prevailing emotion conveyed by a given section of text as anger, happiness, sadness, etc. This required creating a computer learning system that could deal with sparse and noisy training data.

Following that, she has made significant progress in the particularly challenging task of detecting sarcasm.  In addition to her research, Lucy taught a summer course in robotics at Pomona for local high school students. While she received support from the CS department, she initiated and created the entire program independently.

2010Xuexin (Alice) Zhu

Female Runner-Up

2010 Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Runner-Up Senior at Harvey Mudd College

Xuexin (Alice) Zhu is a senior at Harvey Mudd College majoring in Computer Science.

A central problem in pen-based interfaces is how to transition smoothly between drawing and editing. Beginning In her sophomore year, Alice proposed, built and tested a novel pen-based interface technique and has continued to work on the system. In 2009, she won first place in the ACM student research competition for this work.

In addition to quality research, Alice is a superior student maintaining the best GPA of any CS major in her class while doing extensive work as a TA. She has won many prestigious awards in computer science, including an Anita Borg Scholarship and a Microsoft Scholarship.

2010Zachary Abel

Male Runner-Up

2010 Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Runner-Up Senior at Harvard University

Zachary Abel is a senior at Harvard University majoring in Mathematics and Computer Science.

Working with an MIT professor, Zachary attacked the problem of whether hinged dissections always exist-that is, whether a single connected, hinged assembly can always fold between arbitrary configurations. Hinged dissections have been studied for more than 100 years, and many believed that they do not always exist. However, Zachary proved that they do in fact always exist.

Based on the strength of this work, Zachary was invited to participate in a yearly collaborative Computational Geometry Workshop at which he made significant contributions in both 2008 and 2009. In addition to all this, Zachary has maintained a near-perfect GPA.

2010Di Wang

Male Runner-Up

2010 Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Runner-Up Senior at Cornell University

Di Wang is a senior at Cornell University majoring in Computer Science.

While maintaining a perfect GPA, Di has solved an open problem in theoretical Computer Science with applications to computer vision, and begun research on practical application of his ideas to image processing.

Di’s work focuses on the NP-hard problem of Quadratic Unconstrained Binary Optimization (QUBO), which captures the essence of a variety of vision problems. Prior work by Prof. Endre Boros has identified a family of lower bounds of the optimal value, denoted by C2,C3,C4,..., and C2 can be computed using network flow. Two questions are of great interest about these bounds: 1) Can our understanding about C2 be generalized to C3,C4,..., and 2) Can we identify partial optimal assignment from the computation of these lower bounds. For the particular bound C3, Di’s work answers both questions in the affirmative.

Finalists (Female)

Andreea Bodnari, Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Svetlana Lockwood, Washington State University
Kyle Rector, Oregon State University
Rita Sodt, University of Washington
Olga Zverovich, Harvard University

Finalists (Male)

Aleksandr Arkhipov, MIT
Paul Caravelli, Georgetown University
George Chen, UC Berkeley
Andrew Owens, Cornell University
Volodymyr Kuleshov, McGill University
Tom Morgan, MIT
Peng Shi, Duke University
John Silberholz, University of Maryland
Edgar Solomonik, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Honorable Mentions (Female)

Jacqueline Addesa, Virginia Tech
Christina Brandt, Cornell University
Heather Buletti, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Jeannette Chang, University of Southern California
Jennifer Chen, Princeton University
Nina Chen, New York University
Milka Doktorova, Mount Holyoke College
Shelley Gao, University of Victoria
Allison Hoch, University of Maryland
Beenish Jamil, George Mason University
Kateryna Kuksenok, Oberlin College
Rachel Lathbury, University of Virginia
Ainsley Lawson, University Toronto
JaMia Moore, University of Arkansas at Little Rock
Jamila Salari, University of British Columbia
Corietta Teshera-Sterne, Mount Holyoke College
Manasi Vartak, Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Honorable Mentions (Male)

Ali Assaf, McGill University
Stephen Bach, Georgetown University
Brandon Blakeley, University of Texas at Austin
Gabriel Charette, McGill University
Jesse Cohen, Harvard University
Yi Ding, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Daniel Eisenberg, Carnegie Mellon University
Adam Ernst, Princeton University
Ethan Fast, University of Virginia
William Hamilton, Texas A&M University
Robert Hendry, Hobart and William Smith Colleges
Jonathan Jenkins, Lafayette College
Sam Kerr, Purdue University
Eric Kimbrel, University of Washington
Boyan Li, University of Wisconsin, Madison
Cedric Yen Yu Lin, University of British Columbia
Christopher Louie, UC San Diego
Barry Lumpkin, Arizona State University
Gabriel Martinez, Virginia Tech
Sajid Omar Mehmood, Princeton University
David S. Noble, Jr., University of Virginia
Oleg Ovchinnikov, University of Tennessee
Jordan Rhee, UC San Diego
Garett Ridge, University of Louisville
Daniel Ritchie, UC Berkeley
Alejandro Vega, University of Texas at El Paso
John Wright, University of Texas at Austin

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