2 Illinois CS Students Win Honorable Mentions for CRA Outstanding Undergraduate Researchers Award
Two undergraduate Computer Science students at the University of Illinois have been acknowledged for their exceptional work both inside the classroom and in the lab, receiving CRA Outstanding Undergraduate Researchers Honorable Mentions. The award program recognizes undergraduate students in North American universities who show outstanding research potential in an area of computing research.
Forrest Iandola a junior in Computer Science, and Melisa “Mo” Kudeki, a senior in Computer Science, are this year’s recipients of this prestigious award. Their research and studies in the field of computer science have led to major accomplishments for the department, and their volunteer work and leadership make them great role models to other undergraduate Computer Science students.
Forrest’s accomplishments in Computer Science came at the young age of just 16 years old. He won an internship to Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, and later returned for a second year. During this time, he created a computer simulation of the International Linear Collider, a proposed 250 GeV electron accelerator. His investigative work of the alignment tolerance required for installing magnets to focus electrons into a narrow beam in the Collider with Dr. Michael Syphers resulted in a first-author publication, presented at the AAAS Annual Meeting Student Symposium.
Since conducting research at Fermi Lab, Forrest’s research interests have remained focused on scientific computing. As a sophomore undergraduate, he joined the Parallel Programming Laboratory and worked with Prof. Laxmikant (Sanjay) Kale.
“The key philosophy of our laboratory is to improve parallel performance of scientific applications through new programming languages and paradigms. We create a broad impact through collaboration with other research groups to develop simulations of rockets, weather, and molecular dynamics with our programming paradigms. Performance of these applications and industry-standard benchmarks confirms the performance benefits of our languages,” says Forrest.
He has been working on PPL’s Adaptive Message Passing Interface (AMPI), an implementation of MPI that supports dynamic load balancing and multithreading. Forrest has been testing AMPI’s performance, and is now using that data to improve AMPI’s performance on leading supercomputing architectures. Prof. Kale expects that Forrest will be co-author on one of PPL’s upcoming publications.
Last summer, Forrest served as an intern at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, working on Mercury, a parallel Monte Carlo particle transport code for modeling nuclear reactors, cancer therapy, and high-energy lasers.
“I considered several approaches to incorporating runtime code steering into Mercury, and I hypothesized that a mixed-language approach with C++ and Python would provide runtime control without degrading performance,” says Forrest.
He confirmed this hypothesis and for his research contributions to PyMercury and Mercury, the U.S. Department of Energy named Forrest as a finalist in the Science and Energy Research Challenge.
Currently, Forrest is continuing his work with Prof. Kale, but he is also working on another project with Professors William Gropp and Wen-Mei Hwu to design and construct an energy-efficient 128-node GPU cluster. After helping to construct the cluster, Forrest is tuning an HPL benchmark for the cluster, with results to be submitted to the Top500 and Green500 lists. The cluster appeared on the Green500 list of the world’s most efficient supercomputers.
In addition to all of this contributions to research and studies, Forrest is also a student volunteer and leader in the department. He is a representative on the CS Student Leadership Council, the Chair of the student ACM Career Fair, is a Peer Mentor, and is past Treasurer of the Illini Entrepreneurship Network.
Upon graduation Forrest plans to attend graduate school and continue his focus on parallel and scientific computing research. After receiving a PHD he hopes to become a Professor of Computer Science, lead a research group, and also mentor undergraduate and graduate students interested in scientific computing.
Melisa “Mo” Kudeki
Beyond her stellar academic career and engagement in a variety of extra-curricular activities Mo Kudeki also leaves time for research. Her first research experience was via an NSF- funded REU at UCSC under Professor Sri Kurniawan during the summer of 2009. She helped to develop an iPhone application designed to encourage teenagers to become more physically active, helped run focus groups about the software, and assisted with a user study. Her work in this research resulted in a published paper.
“My portion of the project focused mainly on the game-interaction interface,” says Mo of her research, “I collected already-existing games that require the user to physically engage with the world and move around, and created the interface used to find and play games in the system.”
The following spring Mo joined Prof. Karrie Karahalios’s research group, where she continues to work on an iPhone application to aid in speech therapy for autistic children. The current vision of the application detects syllables in real-time and visualizes them by time and amplitude.
Mo says, “ I experimented with different pitch-detection and syllable-detection algorithms, and used the best results to build the current version of the application, which detects syllables in real-time from the microphone and visualizes them according to time and amplitude. The next stage of the application will also incorporate pitch-detection visualization.”
This past summer, Mo did another REU at Carnegie Mellon University with Prof. Bruce McLaren, where she assisted in developing a user study to determine if students learn arithmetic better by correcting examples that contain mistakes, rather than just working correct examples.
She designed pre- and post- tests of decimal problems to diagnose students’ misconceptions, and created new problems for the erroneous examples testing condition. She then implemented a flash interface on Math Tutor, CMU’s Intelligent Software Tutor, and ran a pilot study. This fall, Prof. McLaren is running a classroom study with over 500 children in Pittsburgh public schools, all thanks to Mo’s efforts.
Her significant research contributions to the real world are matched by her activity within the department as well. She is currently the Vice Chair and is past Secretary of the Illinois student ACM organization. Last year Mo was Conference Chair of the ACM Reflections | Projections Conference, which inlcuded 500 student attendees from across the Midwest, 16 guest speakers, a programming competition, and a job fair.
Mo is also involved with ACM MacWarriors, as a programmer and serves as a mentor with Women in Computer Science. She has also been Webmaster for the Japan Intercultural Network in Illinois. An experience as a high school exchange student for one year in Japan lead her to the webmaster position and also her current pursuit to obtain a minor in international studies.