Two School of Computer Science students received the prestigious Barry Goldwater Scholarship for 2021.
Arvind Mahankali and Jinhyung Park were among four Carnegie Mellon University students granted the scholarship, which is awarded to sophomores and juniors who show promise as leaders in the natural sciences, engineering and mathematics.
Park, a junior, studies artificial intelligence and recently worked on computer vision projects related to autonomous vehicles. He has sought to create better models of the real world by combining two-dimensional and three-dimensional inputs, which will help self-driving cars see better or improve how robots interact with their surroundings.
"I think I've still only scratched the surface of what computer vision has to offer," Park said. "If AI systems have a better understanding of 3D inputs, they can have a better perception of the real world."
Park decided to pursue research during his sophomore year, when he would read a paper and think about how he could improve the idea or fuse it with another field.
"There was so much out there, and there was so much that people were working on, and I just wanted to find out more," Park said. "I wanted to read and not just observe this progression but be part of it."
Mahankali, a junior studying computer science and mathematics, has developed efficient algorithms for machine learning problems. He said he became interested in machine learning during the Freshman Immigration Course, when he learned how adversarial examples can disrupt the intended function of an algorithm. Mahankali wanted to understand how, for example, a neural network designed to identify the animal in a given picture could be fooled into thinking a panda was a gibbon.
"I thought understanding those types of questions seemed interesting and useful for improving the performance and safety of these algorithms," Mahankali said. "Safety is critical in certain applications. If self-driving cars can be fooled, we might be in trouble."
While taking the Algorithms for Big Data course, Mahankali was impressed by how beautiful math techniques could be used to solve real-world problems in machine learning, inspiring him to dive deep into the subject.
Awarded by the federally endowed Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation, the scholarship provides up to $7,500 per year for tuition, fees, books, and room and board. It is the most prestigious STEM scholarship for undergraduates. Nationally, the foundation awarded 410 scholarships for 2021.
Esther Bedoyan, a junior studying electrical and computer engineering and biomedical engineering, and Ethan Lu, a junior studying mathematical sciences, also received the scholarship.