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2018 Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Award Winners

Congratulations to the recipients of the 2018 Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Award. This year’s nominees are a very impressive group. A number of them were commended for making significant contributions to more than one research project, several are authors or coauthors on multiple papers, others have made presentations at major conferences, and some have produced software artifacts that were in widespread use.

Many of nominees had been involved in successful summer research or internship programs, many had been teaching assistants, tutors, or mentors, and a number had significant involvement in community volunteer efforts.

CRA gratefully acknowledges the support of Microsoft Research and Mitsubishi Electric Research Labs (MERL), which sponsor the Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Award program in alternate years. MERL is the sponsor of this year’s awards.

A list of the winners, runners-up, finalists, and honorable mentions is below.

Selection Committee:  Ran Libeskind-Hadas, Chair (Harvey Mudd College), Eric Aaron (Vassar College), Pieter Abbeel (UC Berkeley), Michela Becchi (North Carolina State University), Cristina Nita-Rotaru (Northeastern University), Margo Seltzer (Harvard University), and Brian Tjaden (Wellesley College).

Thank you to those who volunteered their time to serve on the selection committee for this award.


Joshua BrakensiekJoshua Brakensiek

Carnegie Mellon University

Joshua Brakensiek is a senior in the Mathematical Sciences Department at Carnegie Mellon University where he has participated in several projects in computational complexity theory including new results in constraint satisfaction, hardness of approximation, and codes robust to deletions.  His work has resulted in publications in major conferences including the Symposium on Discrete Algorithms, APPROX, and RANDOM.  He was a Putnam Fellow and was a member of the first place Putnam Team in 2016.

Chloe HsuChing-Yun “Chloe” Hsu

California Institute of Technology

Chloe Hsu is a senior at Caltech majoring in mathematics and computer science.  Her research interests are in theoretical computer science as well as other areas at the intersection of computer science and mathematics.  She learned about the “3SUM Conjecture” when she took a course in computational complexity theory in her freshman year and her subsequent research on that problem has led to important new results that were published the 42ndInternational Symposium on Mathematical Foundations of Computer Science in 2017.  In addition, results of her research on the Discrete Fourier Transform were published in the Symposium on Discrete Algorithms in 2018.  She has served as teaching assistant for numerous courses and as an English to Chinese translator for Scientific American.

Ashlie Martinez

University of Texas, Austin

Ashlie Martinez is a senior at the University of Texas at Austin where she is double-majoring in both electrical engineering and computer science.  Her research is in the area of file systems and, specifically, in the CrashMonkey framework for testing the crash consistency of file systems.  The results of her work were presented at the 9th USENIX Workshop on Hot Topics in Storage and File Systems in 2017.  At UT Austin, she has served as a teaching assistant and has particularly enjoyed helping her peers learn about the hardware-software interface.

Richard-PhillipsRichard Phillips

Haverford College

Richard Phillips is a senior computer science major at Haverford College where he has engaged in research in chemoinformatics and machine learning.  In one project, he helped develop computational methods to find bio-inspired molecules that, ultimately, may lead to better organic batteries.  In another research project, he made contributions to the field of active learning by defining a new measure of uncertainty bias and demonstrating its utility in practice.  His work has led to a publication in the Journal of Physical Chemistry and at the Workshop on Human Interpretability in Machine Learning in 2017.  He has served as an undergraduate teaching assistant and a member of a student advisory board at Haverford.

Runners Up

Noah GolowichNoah Golowich

Harvard College

Noah Golowich is a junior majoring in both computer science and mathematics at Harvard University.  His research spans both artificial intelligence and mathematical foundations of computer science including problems in multiple-facility location, graph theory, and others.  His work has resulted in four publications in discrete mathematics and combinatorics journals, including one single-authored paper that resolved an open problem on linear homogeneous equations.  He has served as a teaching assistant in several courses.

Sarah Hall SwanSarah Hall-Swan

Tufts University

Sarah Hall-Swan is a senior at Tufts University where she is double-majoring in computer science and biology.  Her research has explored problems in network clustering of protein-protein interaction networks as well as computational molecular docking. A paper based on her biological networks research was accepted for publication in BMC Systems Biology.  She has worked at the Tufts Center for Engineering and Education Outreach and is an active leader in several campus organizations.

Daniel JohnsonDaniel Johnson

Harvey Mudd College

Daniel Johnson is a senior at Harvey Mudd College where he is completing the joint major in computer science and mathematics.  His research is in the area of neural networks where he has explored applications to graph transformation as well as music generation.  His work has resulted in two single-authored papers in the 2017 International Conference on Learning Representations and in the 2017 International Conference on Evolutionary and Biologically Inspired Music and Art as well as two joint-authored papers.  He has served as teaching assistant for several courses and is the project manager for a senior capstone project.

Julia_LenJulia Len

University of California, San Diego

Julie Len is a senior computer science major at UC San Diego where she has engaged in research in applied cryptography and, specifically, in the development of cryptographic hash functions that provide provable security guarantees.  She presented her work on collision resistant hashing at the 2017 ACM Computer and Communications Security Conference.  Julia has served as teaching assistant for multiple courses.  She is the former president of the UCSD Scholars Society and is active in the Association for Women in Computing.


Sheila Alemany – Florida International University
Eric Deng – University of Southern California
Raymond Fok – University of Michigan
Dan Hendrycks – University of Chicago
William Kuszmaul – Stanford University
Margaret Lawson – Dartmouth College
Hillary Lia – Queen’s University
Peter Manohar – University of California, Berkeley
Ahmad Shikib Mehri – University of British Columbia
Raphael Meyer – Purdue University
Alannah Oleson – Oregon State University
Srishti Palani – Mount Holyoke College
Kimberly Ruth – University of Washington
Garrett Thomas – University of California, Berkeley

Honorable Mentions

Rachel Alexander – University of Southern California
Mark Bryan – Cornell University
Kevin Chow – University of British Columbia
Mike D’Arcy – Cleveland State University
Anh Dao – University of Arizona
Rohan Doshi – Princeton University
Kiya Govek – Carleton College
Daniel Gratzer – Carnegie Mellon University
Isaac Griswold-Steiner – Texas Tech University
Jordan Haack – Harvey Mudd College
Maryam Hedayati – Carleton College
Xuan Huang – Bryn Mawr College
Preston Jiang – University of Washington
Siddharth Karamcheti – Brown University
Raunak Kumar – University of British Columbia
Rae Lasko – Carnegie Mellon University
Vivian Li – University of Rochester
Max Li – University of Pennsylvania
Siqi Liu – University of California, Berkeley
Kelly Mack – University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Liza Mansbach – Cornell University
Daniel Minahan – University of Michigan
Ian Neal – University of Texas, Austin
Brandon Neth – University of Arizona
Scott Neville – University of Utah
Dana Nguyen – University of California Santa Barbara
Ke Ni – University of California, Santa Barbara
Deric Pang – University of Washington
Alex Pissinou Makki – University of California, Berkeley
Sorawee Porncharoenwase – Brown University
Nicholas Rioux – Northeastern University
Andy Rosales – University of California, Santa Barbara
Eric Rosen – Brown University
Nolan Shah – University of Houston
Zheyuan Shi – Swarthmore College
Yiliang Shi – University of Utah
Yousuf Soliman – Carnegie Mellon University
Jacob (Jalex) Stark – California Institute of Technology
Clayton Thomas – Purdue University
Jamie Tucker-Foltz – Amherst College
Jacob Van Geffen – University of Texas, Austin
Nick Walker – University of Texas, Austin
Kathleen Watson – University of Minnesota
Yucheng Yin – University of Michigan
Tianhe Yu – University of California, Berkeley
Valerie Zhao – Wellesley College
Ruiqi Zhong – Columbia University