Illinois College of Engineering Announces Siebel Scholars Class of 2012
Swapnil Ghike volunteered to teach illiterate villagers and participated in NGO projects in his native India, and now is inspired to create sustainable technological solutions for the developing world. Katrina Gossman’s simple idea to create one-way gates for randomly moving robots kickstarted a research program so innovative that it is generating an unusual amount of discussion and controversy in the field of robotics. Akhil Langer’s SMS texting solution to help people find answers to medical questions put forth in natural language was awarded for its high impact factor in developing countries. Harshitha Menon’s observation of parallelism in bee colonies inspired her to seek solutions at the intersection of high performance computing and distributed systems. Nipun Sehrawat’s belief in the transformative potential of cloud computing and virtualization is resulting in solutions that reduce development time and improve developer productivity in large software development environments.
These five accomplished Computer Science graduate students have been named the 2012 Siebel Scholars. They join an elite group chosen on the basis of outstanding academic performance and demonstrated qualities of leadership. Each receives a $35,000 prize award established by the Siebel Foundation to recognize the most talented students at the world’s leading schools of business, computer science, and bioengineering.
“The Siebel Scholars Program recognizes students who have demonstrated academic and leadership excellence at the world’s leading graduate schools of business, bioengineering, and computer science, and confirms the excellence of our institutions,” stated Ilesanmi Adesida, dean of the College of Engineering. “We are very proud to be part of the Siebel Scholars Program in our efforts to create informed scholars and leaders, and to be considered among the top institutions in providing this interdisciplinary training.”
As Ghike learned during his time in India working on projects that addressed illiteracy, rural business models, and more, a social problem is generally harder than it appears, and many times, simple solutions are best though they may be the most difficult to find. His experiences in India gave him an appreciation for simple engineering solutions to the challenges of the developing world, and fostered his aspiration to create sustainable technological solutions that will serve developing nations. Ghike’s research has focused on writing dynamic load balancing algorithms for parallel computation on thousands of processors and cross kernel optimizations for OpenCL programs. His current work with Professor David Padua aims to extract high performance from applications by applying compiler transformations and harnessing the parallelism offered by graphics processing units, without impacting programmer productivity.
As an undergraduate, Gossman began exploring minimalist manipulation of simple ergodtic bodies, where she was considered on of the most influential undergraduates ever to work in the robotics lab. Her design of simple gates to control randomly moving robots enforced a desired behavior at virtually no cost in terms of expense or energy. Continuing her research as a graduate student, Gossman is exploring minimalist solutions that can allow simple vehicles (in this case, a $4 weasel ball) to achieve tasks that are typically performed by much more expensive and complex robotics. Her advisor, Professor Steve LaValle characterizes her research work as “so innovative that it has led to an unusual amount of discussion and controversy in the robotics community.”
Langer’s work as an undergraduate student in India has already garnered him recognition for creating technology solutions with a high impact factor for developing countries. His system to analyze biomedical questions posed via noisy SMS text delivers answers to medical questions and helps the general population locate doctors, and also resulted in a national level award. His current work with Professor Kale focuses on collaborative, cross-disciplinary applications of high performance computing at peta- and exa-scale. His projects range from parallelizing the decision-making process for allocation of military and civilian aircraft to simulations using adaptive mesh refinement with applications in numerical cosmology, global atmospheric modeling and mantle convection modeling. He also works on scalable algorithms for optimizing communication in parallel programs.
Observing the intrinsic parallelism found in nature, Menon was inspired to make the beauty of parallelism pervasive in computing. Towards her goal, Menon’s research spans the areas of parallel computing and distributed systems. Working with Professor Kale, Menon’s research aims to harness the power of multiprocessors and distributed systems to sustain the ever-increasing performance requirement of today’s applications. Menon’s passion for teaching has led her to create innovative teaching labs and collaborative problem solving methods in the computer science courses she currently teaches.
Sehrawat has been involved in various projects relating to virtualization and cloud computing since his undergraduate years. His current work in the area focuses on scalability and performance aspects of the emergent fields, with particular emphasis on highly available and replicated cloud databases. His work with Professor Indranil Gupta to develop a distributed build solution led to the development of an algorithm that outperforms the next best solution, and may lead to shorter development cycles and increased productivity for large software development firms.
About Siebel Scholars
The Siebel Scholars program was established by the Siebel Foundation in 2000 to recognize the most talented students at the world’s leading graduate schools of business, computer science, and bioengineering. Each year, 85 exceptional students receive a $35,000 award during their final year of studies based on outstanding academic performance and leadership. Today, an active community of more than 700 Scholars serves as advisors to the Siebel Foundation and works collaboratively to find solutions to society’s most pressing problems.
This exceptional group has the unique opportunity to directly influence the technologies, policies, and economic and social decisions that shape the future. Siebel Scholars serve as key advisors to the Siebel Foundation, guiding the development of innovative programs the Foundation initiates. The Siebel Scholars community is also integral to a highly outcome-driven Siebel Scholars conference held each year to explore critical social issues.