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Four Illinois CS Students Receive NCSA’s Fiddler Innovation Fellowships

1/7/2019 3:27:18 PM By Boswell Hutson, NCSA

Four Illinois Computer Science students are among the newest group of undergraduates given the opportunity to pursue multidisciplinary research at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications through its Fiddler Innovation Undergraduate Fellowship.

The undergraduate award, which consists of a $1,000 stipend, was given last fall to 14 students whose research at NCSA crossed over into multiple disciplines, encouraging exploration of new topics and innovation. Awardees are studying everything from tracking race in video games to sound design and music composition on supercomputers.

“Often times, research challenges cannot fit within the scope of a single discipline,” said Donna Cox, Director of NCSA’s Advanced Visualization Lab. “To have an award that explicitly provides resources for students to transcend traditional discipline borders is priceless.”

Illinois CS students in the most recent class of Fiddler Fellows and their projects include:

  • Nicole Pontaza, Eye Tracking Race and Cultural Difference in Video Games;
  • Craig Santo, Putting Virtual Director (Back) in Virtual Reality;
  • Jasmine Shih, Web Programming and Real-Time Scientific Visualization Research;
  • Rishabh Rajagopalan, Music Composition and Sound Design on High-Performance Computers.

The Fiddler Fellowship is part of a $2 million endowment from Illinois CS graduate Jerry Fiddler (BA LAS '74, MS CS '77) and his wife, Melissa Alden, to the University of Illinois in support of the Emerging Digital Research and Education in Arts Media (eDream) Institute at NCSA. The eDream Institute’s explicit goal is to combine art and technology to address some of the world’s most pressing challenges by looking at them with a frame of mind that is not inhibited by disciplinary constraints.

In turn, this institute supports faculty and students who choose to step outside of disciplinary boundaries, pursuing innovative and interdisciplinary research at all levels. The students received their awards from Fiddler himself, and had an opportunity to share their research with him and other award recipients at the Fiddler Student and Faculty award luncheon on October 2.

While the Fiddler Fellowship is a vital component of NCSA’s reputation as an interdisciplinary research hub, the financial award also encourages students to experiment, offering funding for this type of abstract thinking that could eventually change the world of research, a very rare opportunity.

The current class of undergraduate Fiddler Fellows includes 13 from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and one from DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind. Fiddler Innovation Graduate Student Fellowship Awards were also presented to two graduate students, and the Fiddler Innovation Faculty Fellowship was awarded to two faculty members.