This article is published in the January 2008 issue.

CRA Announces Outstanding Undergraduate Award Winners

Winner, Female Award


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.

Winner, Male Award

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.

Winner, Male Award

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.

Runner Up, Female Award

Raluca Ada Popa is a junior at the 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. A paper 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 Award

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

Finalists, Male Award

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; and Yuanchen Zhu, Harvard University.

Honorable Mention, Female Award

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; Maja Frydrychowicz, McGill University; Ekaterine 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; and Juliette Zerick, University of Mary Washington; and Irene Zhang, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Honorable Mention, Male Award

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;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; and Luke Zarko, University of Pennsylvania.

This year’s selection committee included Richard Waters (Mitsubishi Electric Research Labs), Chair; Geoff Keunning (Harvey Mudd College); Clement Lam (Concordia University); David Novick (University of Texas, El Paso); and Lynn Stein (Olin College).

CRA Announces Outstanding Undergraduate Award Winners