Success Stories

Together, the cross-flow and independence have contributed to exceptional experiences for the CIFellows and their mentors, furthering the careers of both in most cases. For example, Hanspeter Pfister, a graphics/visualization researcher at Harvard University, is mentoring 2009 CIFellow Miriah Meyer from the University of Utah. Hanspeter says that the CIFellows Project allowed Miriah (and him) to explore a new research area, for which they would have been unlikely to obtain grant support (given the initial stage of the project). The area in which they are working is visualizing data that do not have any inherent spatial characteristics, specifically genomics visualization. If one is visualizing a brain image, or a fluid flow simulation, it is pretty obvious how to “lay it out,” because the data are inherently spatial. By contrast, there exists a new challenge—a “design” challenge—in how best to lay out data that lack inherent spatial information, and that’s what Hanspeter and Miriah are exploring.

“The program was incredibly well thought out, providing funds for postdocs to cover the expenses associated with our research, and did an excellent job of pairing post-docs with mentors.”

Similarly, Yiling Chen, an economic mechanisms expert at Harvard, mentored CIFellow Jennifer Wortman Vaughan from the University of Pennsylvania during the 2009-10 academic year. Jennifer earned her Ph.D. from the group of Michael Kearns—a computer scientist and expert on machine learning and game theory renown for his work on the connections between networks and human behavior. Yiling, too, is effusive in her praise of CIFellows. Jennifer departed the CIFellows Project at the end of her first year, assuming a faculty position at UCLA this past fall—and, in an interesting example of cross-flow, she immediately took on a 2010 CIFellow, Ricky Sethi.

It is also worth noting that Hanspeter and Yiling are both new faculty members. They each had some previous experience under their belts (Hanspeter at Mitsubishi Research and Yiling at Yahoo! Research), but these are cases in which the CIFellows Project has paired an outstanding new graduate with an outstanding new faculty member and achieved a really excellent result.

Finally, Sitaram Asur, a CIFellow working at HP Labs under Bernardo Huberman, made tremendous progress on the development of a new algorithm that uses Twitter to gauge real-time interest in movies and accurately predict how they will perform at the box office on opening weekend. The work received substantial publicity in the popular press, including the Los Angeles Times. Sitaram’s outstanding contributions prompted HP Labs to hire him as a permanent Researcher effective summer 2010.

These accomplishments serve to illustrate how the CIFellows Project is having a broader impact for our computing research community.