2021 Computer Science End of Year Award Winners

Congratulations to our outstanding students for their achievements during the 2020-2021 academic year!

    2021 CS John A. Stankovic Graduate Research Award Winner: Mengdi Huai

    May 18, 2021

    Mengdi photo

    About Mengdi: 

    I am a Ph.D. Student in the Department of Computer Science supervised by Prof. Aidong Zhang. My research interests broadly are data mining and machine learning, with an emphasis on the aspects of model transparency, security, privacy, and algorithm design. 


    How Mengdi achieved success this year: 

    I enjoy solving new problems and challenges using my skillset, which motivates me to work really hard and push myself to achieve new goals. 

    2021 CS John A. Stankovic Graduate Research Award Winner: Marzieh Lenjani

    May 18, 2021

    Marzieh Lenjani Photo

    About Marzieh: 

    I am a Ph.D. candidate advised by Professor Kevin Skadron. My research explores application characterization, accelerator design for machine learning and big data applications, and mapping and optimization of modern applications on emerging processors and accelerators. I enjoy swimming, hiking, cooking, and writing diaries. 


    How Marzieh achieved success this year: 

    Working on what I think will have a real impact and support from my advisor helped me the most. I work on reducing the cost of data movement, where the collective impact of the research area is solving a very important problem and resolve the main hindrance to future applications. Research in this area is challenging. However, having a supportive advisor who always encourages me and is very supportive even when facing setbacks is very helpful. More importantly, my advisor values balancing work and personal lives, allowing me to assign some time for taking care of my mental and physical health. All these together have made the Ph.D. journey enjoyable for me. 


    2021 CS John A. Stankovic Graduate Research Award Winner: Tianlu Wang

    May 18, 2021

    Tianlu Wang photo

    About Tianlu: 

    I am a Ph.D. student in the Department of Computer Science. I am fortunate to work with my advisor, Prof. Vicente Ordóñez Román. Before coming to UVA, I obtained my bachelor's degree in computer science from Zhejiang University, China. I received a Best Paper Award at EMNLP 2017. I have a broad interest in exploring topics concerning fairness, robustness, and accountability in machine learning models, especially in computer vision and natural language processing systems. 


    How Tianlu achieved success this year: 

    I always believe that my research is important and useful. I look forward to exploring more fairness-related problems in my future career. 

    2021 CS Graduate Service Award Winner: Yasunari Kato

    May 18, 2021

    Yasunari photo

    About Yasunari: 

    I am a first year Computer Science Masters student, focusing on Computer Architecture. I am currently doing research on Persistent Memory Errors under Professor Samira Khan. I am also currently the CSGSG Diversity Chair. 

    When not focusing on my studies, I enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking, Ultimate Frisbee, and snowboarding. I also like spending my time playing popular board games such as Settlers of Catan and Avalon. 


    How Yasunari achieved success this year: 

    Maximizing social interaction, whether it be outside with friends, over zoom for happy hours, or even just calling or texting helped me feel less isolated this past year. 


    2021 CS Graduate Service Award Winner: Xida Ren

    May 18, 2021

    Xida Ren Photo

    About Xida: 

    I'm working in Computer Architecture, but also interested in machine learning, biology, math, and some political / social science. I love Asimov's science fiction because they touch on a bit of all of the above. I have a 10 year old BMW that I bought for cheap and maintain myself (no way I'm going to fix it at the dealership on a grad student stipend), but I've sortta accepted that I'm not going to be able to fix this car and I'm just slowing its end. I'm a recovering DOTA addict, but I sometimes still check into the game and see what's going on. 

    I love every aspect of TAing except grading, and gradescope is an amazing thing to have in a class. This is why I think I'll eventually become a professor and teach. 


    How Xida achieved success this year: 

    For me it's mostly been people. Work can be painful, but with people to help you get past obstacles and celebrate success, it makes it bearable and even enjoyable to try and accomplish things. Research wise, my advisor Ashish Venkat was amazing. A good amount of guidance and push for research, but I'm also constantly encouraged to take care of myself. He leads by example and tells me his own stories which is really encouraging. 

    In the CSGSG, I'd like to thank Josie, Yasunari, and Rory. Josie is an amazing mentor and taught me a lot about sending out announcements, organizing meetings, and just getting things done in an organization while keeping it pleasant for everybody. Yasunari has been very very active and a constant stream of energy and good ideas. Rory did a lot of infrastructure work and made it very easy for me to engage newcomers in the CSGSG. Outside the CSGSG, I really appreciate my friends David and Dante for being super supportive and kind to me even when I'm just a ball of stress. 

    2021 CS Graduate Teaching Award Winner: Md Aashikur Rahman Azim

    May 18, 2021

    Aashik photo

    About Aashikur: 

    I am a third-year Computer Science Ph.D. student. I am advised by Dr. Seongkook Heo. My area of research is Human-Computer Interaction, especially wearable user interfaces and interactions. I received both Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET). I am a family man, spend most of the free time with family by visiting new places. I play indoor and outdoor sports- cricket, soccer, and table tennis, depending on the weather and situations. 


    How Aashikur achieved success this year: 

    To keep me motivated during the unusual year, I have focused on a better future and planning to visit my home country once the pandemic comes to an end. While getting stuck in doing things, I used to sit alone on my balcony, having fresh air, which helped me get back to work with full rhythm. 

    2021 CS Graduate Teaching Award Winner: Fan Yao

    May 18, 2021

    Fan Yao photo

    About Fan: 

    I'm Fan Yao, a second-year Ph.D. student co-advised by Prof. Haifeng Xu and Prof. Hongning Wang. My research interest includes online learning, algorithm design in multi-agent systems, and their applications in recommendation and information retrieval systems. Beyond my research, I'm also crazy about cooking and playing tennis: I cook cuisine around the world and like to analyze recipes from a theoretical perspective to create new dishes; I've been playing tennis for 9 years and I'm sure it is gonna be a life long hobby. I'm also an amateur photographer, mainly focusing on landscape photography. Feel free to ping me if you share similar interests, either in academic or non-academic! I'm happy to make new friends. 


    How Fan achieved success this year: 

    I've always had the passion to help others. So when I'm TA-ing, I care about students' concerns and enjoy helping them from the bottom of my heart. I also want to thank Prof. Haifeng Xu, the instructor of the two courses I have been involved in. He provided me with plenty of opportunities to practice the teaching skills, e.g., designing a insightful problem set for homework, preparing and giving mini-lectures. Without his decent guidance, I couldn't have achieved all this. 

    2021 CS Louis T. Rader Undergraduate Research Award Winner: Ethan Blaser

    May 17, 2021

    Ethan Blaser photo

    About Ethan: 

    I'm a 4th year Physics and Computer Science major from Los Angeles, CA. During my time in the CS Department, I enjoyed conducting research on network representation learning with Professor Hongning Wang in the Human Centric Data Mining Group. Our research focused on developing novel machine learning methods to encode network structures into low-dimensional embeddings that contain relevant information from graphs. Before joining Professor Wang's research group, I was fortunate to be able to combine my interests in physics and computer science as an intern at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory while working on an automated pipeline to detect and characterize exoplanets. Outside of academics, I was the Double Bassist in the UVA Jazz Ensemble, and served as the Outreach Chair for the Society of Physics Students, and as the Chapter President of the Pi Lambda Phi Fraternity. For fun, I really enjoy playing jazz music, surfing, playing poker, and playing pickup soccer with my friends around Grounds. After graduation, I am very excited to be continuing my studies in the UVA Computer Science Department as a Ph.D. student. 


    How Ethan achieved success this year: 

    I was fortunate to have a strong network of supportive family, friends, faculty members, and fellow students. It was their kindness and support that helped me get through this difficult year. I am especially grateful to Professor Wang, my research advisor, and his graduate student Lu Lin, for their guidance and mentorship which challenged me to grow as a researcher and aspiring computer scientist. I also think that having a structured bi-weekly Jazz Ensemble class where I could play in an in-person live jazz trio provided me an avenue for creative expression, and helped me break away from the monotony of constantly having to be on Zoom. 

    2021 CS Louis T. Rader Undergraduate Research Award Winner: Henry Carscadden

    May 17, 2021

    Henry Carscadden photo

    About Henry: 

    Hailing from Goochland, VA, I started at UVA as a mathematics major, but I really enjoyed the introductory computer science course and decided to double major. My primary interest is the world of algorithms and data science, and I entered this world by working on projects at the UVA Biocomplexity Institute. I enjoy the practical application of math to the world but also the structure of the problems. Throughout my time at UVA, I spent a lot of time on the climbing team where I competed in several competitions, and in my third-year, I took third for a duathlon (running + climbing) at the Stone Fort climbing competition. In general, I just really enjoy doing things outdoors such as running, hiking, hunting, etc. During my time with UVA Air Force ROTC, I was also able to do service work on Charlottesville area trails and working with local charities. After graduation, I plan on working for the University for a short stint and continuing to do research before moving on to active duty in the U.S. Space Force. 


    How Henry achieved success this year: 

    The things that kept me sane this year were getting plenty of exercise and trying to be more involved in the Church. 

    2021 CS Louis T. Rader Undergraduate Research Award Winner: Sonali Luthar

    May 17, 2021

    Sonali Luthar Photo

    About Sonali: 

    I love doing work that energizes me. Machine learning and artificial intelligence are the areas of CS I find most interesting, and my biggest passion outside of academics is sustainability and climate change. As such, I was so excited when in my second year I started doing sustainability-oriented computer vision research with Madhur Behl in the Link Lab. This research is broadly termed the Internet of Wasted Things (IoWT): we use computer vision to track and classify different types of waste objects. Outside of research, I am also the student co-chair of the Materials Working Group underneath the Environmental Stewardship Subcommittee. Our goal is to reduce and divert material waste on Grounds, and we have completed many composting projects and more. Recently we've been involved in preparing UVA for the new executive order from Ralph Northam, EO-77, to eliminate single-use plastics at state institutions including UVA. After graduation, I will be moving to Seattle, WA in August to start work at Amazon as a Software Development Engineer. I love all things outdoorsy so I am super excited for the move! This will be my first time on the West Coast, but I'm eager for the adventures of life post-grad. In my free time, I love to cook, hang out with friends, and write. 


    How Sonali achieved success this year: 

    Being surrounded by a supportive network absolutely contributed the most to my well-being this year. I am especially grateful to my research advisor Dr. Madhur Behl. He ensured I could continue working on our project virtually undisturbed and always uplifted my spirits on our Zoom meetings when I was stressed over work. I'm also thankful to all of my Professors who have been so understanding this year, as well as my family, my roommates, and all of my friends for keeping me company in such an isolating time. 

    Additionally, I felt motivated to finish off the year because I loved all the projects I was working on. During college I intentionally involved myself in work I was passionate about, i.e. CS and sustainability, and over the years I've been fortunate to see my extra-curriculars interact with each other and build off one another. It's given me a deeper understanding, appreciation, and fondness for the topic area. I even wrote my STS thesis on the role of AI in climate change! Finishing out this semester felt like I was sealing off my projects with a neat bow (and sadly saying goodbye to them as well), and it made me motivated to do it right.