This article is published in the January 2017 issue.

2017 Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Award Winners

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 the 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, which sponsor the Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Award program in alternate years. Microsoft Research is the sponsor of this year’s awards.

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

Selection Committee: Eric Aaron, Chair (Vassar College), Michela Becchi (University of Missouri), Rajiv Gandhi (Rutgers University-Camden), Dan Grossman (University of Washington), Sorelle Friedler (Haverford College), Walter Lasecki (University of Michigan), and Christina Nita-Rotaru (Northeastern University)

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


Khurram Jafery

University of British Columbia
Khurram Jafery is a senior in the combined computer science and mathematics honours program at the University of British Columbia. His research interests are in the area of type systems for programming languages, and he is focusing on extending the applicability of gradual typing, which combines static and dynamic typing within a single language. Khurram has also served as a reviewer for the 2016 ACM SIGPLAN International Conference on Functional Programming.

Smitha Milli

University of California–Berkeley
smitha_headshotSmitha Milli is a senior electrical engineering and computer science major at the University of California, Berkeley. Smitha’s research areas include human-compatible AI, computational cognitive science, and natural language processing (NLP), with applications such as NLP of literature, bounded-optimal metareasoning, and AI safety. She has also been a teaching assistant for several CS courses, and she has assisted with the establishment of a Center for Human-Compatible AI at Berkeley.

Hoon Oh

Rutgers University-Camden
hoonohphotoHoon Oh is a senior computer science major at Rutgers University-Camden. His research focuses on algorithm design and analysis, with applications to problems such as radio aggregation scheduling, capacitated broadcast scheduling, and the stable matching problem with couples. Hoon has also been a teaching assistant at Rutgers-Camden and a guest lecturer at the Program in Algorithmic and Computational Thinking, a pre-college summer program in which he was previously a student.

Jane Wu

Harvey Mudd College
wujaneJane Wu is a junior computer science and mathematics major at Harvey Mudd College. Her recent research is in the area of human-robot trust, applying game theory to explore how people’s perception of interacting with robots, rather than with other people, influences trust and cooperation. Jane is also a former co-president of the campus Combat Robotics Club, and she is a co-chair of her local chapter of the ACM Committee on Women in Computing.


Siddhartha Jayanti

Princeton University
Siddhartha Jayanti is a senior computer science major at Princeton University. In his research, he focuses on concurrent algorithms for the disjoint set union problem, designing and analyzing algorithms that can exploit multiprocessor settings for more efficient solutions. Siddhartha has also been the outreach chair for the Princeton Math Club, and he is an Indian classical singer for a campus group that performs and promotes
Indian classical music.

Jamie Lesser

Williams CollegeLesser
Jamie Lesser is a senior majoring in computer science and mathematics at Williams College. Her research interests span computer graphics and applied mathematics, and her ongoing research work focuses on Monte Carlo integration, including variable-precision optimization and methods for handling functions of different variance. Jamie has also developed an open-source 3D graphics engine, and she served as the posters chair for the ACM SIGGRAPH Symposium on Interactive 3D Graphics and Games in 2015.

Jingyi Li

University of California – Berkeley

jingyiJingyi Li is a senior electrical engineering and computer science major at the University of California, Berkeley. With research interests in areas of user interfaces, design, and human-computer interaction, Jingyi’s work ranges from digital fabrication systems to interactive virtual agents. Jingyi is also the president of the largest design club at UC Berkeley, Berkeley Innovation, and an experienced teaching assistant for courses such as Advanced Graphics and User Interface Design & Development.

Keyi Zhang

Bucknell University
keyi-zhangKeyi Zhang is a senior computer science and engineering major at Bucknell University. Keyi’s research focuses on sensor networks and the Internet of Things, with work in areas such as distributed databases on low-powered network nodes and natural language search for sensor networks. Keyi has also been a teaching assistant for computer science at Bucknell, and he is an active member of his local ACM chapter.


Terra Blevins – Columbia University
Vinyas Harish – Queen’s University
Peter Kraft – Harvard University
Ashvin Nair – University of California – Berkeley
Alex Ozdemir – Harvey Mudd College
Alexandra Porter – Arizona State University
Lillian Tsai – Harvard University
Yisu Remy Wang – Tufts University
Julia Woodward – University of Florida

Honorable Mentions

Alyxander Burns – Mount Holyoke College
June Chen-William – Marsh Rice University
Christina Chung – University of Toronto
Jessica Fan – Dartmouth College
Rolando Garcia – Arizona State University
Xinyang (Young) Geng – University of California – Berkeley
Louis Jenkins – Bloomsburg University
Ruoxin (Amy) Jiang – Columbia University
Laurynas Kalesinskas – Loyola University Chicago
Graham Lustiber – Harvard University
Christopher Mackie – University of Washington
Kalina Petrova – Princeton University
Xi Bei She – University of British Columbia
Jessica Shi – Princeton University
Ross Vasko – The Ohio State University
Prayaag Venkat – University of Maryland
Ashton Webster – University of Maryland
Nathaniel Yazdani – University of Washington
Jun Ho Yoon – Columbia University
Sarah Yu – University of Washington