15 students and five faculty from Illinois receive NCSA’s Fiddler Innovation Fellowship

10.30.19 -

by Shaylee Bent

From using supercomputers to peer into the data behind gun violence and mental health to simulating cosmic star mergers, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has a long-standing history of transcending traditional borders of academic research. In line with this tradition, NCSA students from our SPIN, REU-INCLUSION and Design for America programs are offered the opportunity to participate in the Fiddler Innovation Undergraduate Fellowship.

This year's class of undergraduate Fiddler Fellows includes 12 students from a variety of disciplines, spanning from architecture to engineering and even the humanities. Fiddler Innovation Graduate Student Fellowship Awards were also presented to three graduate students, and the Fiddler Innovation Faculty Fellowship was awarded to five faculty members.

The undergraduate award, which consists of a $1,000 stipend, was given to students whose research at NCSA crossed over into multiple disciplines, encouraging exploration of new topics and innovation. Awardees from this year studied everything from real-time immersive virtual environments for education and learning to food insecurity on college campuses.

"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, and we are incredibly thankful to Jerry Fiddler and Melissa Alden for their generous contribution."

The Fiddler Fellowship is part of a $2 million endowment from Jerry Fiddler and 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 Jerry 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 September 13.

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 their abstract thinking that could eventually change the world of research, a very rare opportunity.

A full list of undergraduate fellows and their projects can be found below:

  • Sarah Habib, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, computer science and engineering physics — Modeling and detection of black hole collisions
  • Brianna Creviston, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, architecture — Senior fraud
  • Ajaita Saini, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, computer science — Senior fraud and food insecurity on college campuses
  • Tiffany Duong, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, computer science — Food insecurity national project
  • Lucas O'Bryan, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, material science and engineering — Supporting interdisciplinary teams to create innovative solutions to local social challenges
  • Kajetan Haas, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, general studies — Real-time immersive virtual environments for education and learning
  • Yankun Zhao, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, computer engineering — 3D biological network visualization
  • Arjun Gupta, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, computer engineering — Deep learning and neuroscience
  • Xiaolan (Lily) Ke, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, computer science — Deep learning at scale for multi-messenger astrophysics in the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope era
  • Swan Htun, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, engineering & physics — GPU computing for bionanotechnology
  • Debopam Sanyal, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, electrical & computer engineering — Deep neural network model selection with application specific metrics
  • Teja Gupta, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, electrical & computer engineering — Impact of housing discrimination on the pollution exposure gap in the United States

Fiddler Innovation Graduate Student Fellowship awardees include:

  • Sibo Wang, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, environmental science
  • Adrian Wong, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Institute of Communications Research
  • Jorge Rojas, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Institute of Communications Research

Fiddler Innovation Faculty Fellowship awardees include:

  • Anita Chan, University of Illinois College of Media
  • John Toenjes, University of Illinois Department of Dance
  • Ben Grosser, University of Illinois College of Fine and Applied Arts
  • Karrie Karahalios, University of Illinois Grainger College of Engineering
  • Karen Rodriguez'G, University of Illinois Office of Undergraduate Research