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College of Engineering Announces Siebel Scholars Class of 2012

9/12/2011 8:56:00 AM

Five accomplished computer science graduate students--Swapnil Ghike, Katrina Gossman, Akhil Langer, Harshitha Menon, and Nipun Sehrawat--have been selected to the Siebel Scholars Class of 2012 for their leadership and academic excellence.

The 2012 Siebel Scholars from Illinois: back row, from left: Swapnil Ghike, Nipun Sehrawat, Akhil Langer. front row, from left: Katrina Gossman, Harshitha Menon
The 2012 Siebel Scholars from Illinois: back row, from left: Swapnil Ghike, Nipun Sehrawat, Akhil Langer. front row, from left: Katrina Gossman, Harshitha Menon
“The Siebel Scholars Program recognizes students who have demonstrated academic and leadership excellence at the world’s leading graduate schools of business, bioengineering, and computer science, and confirms the excellence of our institutions,” stated Ilesanmi Adesida, dean of the College of Engineering. “We are very proud to be part of the Siebel Scholars Program in our efforts to create informed scholars and leaders, and to be considered among the top institutions in providing this interdisciplinary training.”

These new Siebel Scholars join an elite group chosen on the basis of outstanding academic performance and demonstrated qualities of leadership. Each receives a $35,000 prize award established by the Siebel Foundation to recognize the most talented students at the world’s leading schools of business, computer science, and bioengineering.

As Swapnil Ghike learned during his time in India working on projects that addressed illiteracy, rural business models, and more, a social problem is generally harder than it appears, and many times, simple solutions are best though they may be the most difficult to find.  His experiences in India gave him an appreciation for simple engineering solutions to the challenges of the developing world, and fostered his aspiration to create sustainable technological solutions that will serve developing nations. Ghike’s research has focused on writing dynamic load balancing algorithms for parallel computation on thousands of processors and cross kernel optimizations for OpenCL programs. His current work with Professor David Padua aims to extract high performance from applications by applying compiler transformations and harnessing the parallelism offered by graphics processing units, without impacting programmer productivity.

As an undergraduate, Katrina Gossman began exploring minimalist manipulation of simple ergodtic bodies, where she was considered on of the most influential undergraduates ever to work in the robotics lab. Her design of simple gates to control randomly moving robots enforced a desired behavior at virtually no cost in terms of expense or energy. Continuing her research as a graduate student, Gossman is exploring minimalist solutions that can allow simple vehicles (in this case, a $4 weasel ball) to achieve tasks that are typically performed by much more expensive and complex robotics. Her advisor, Professor Steve LaValle characterizes her research work as “so innovative that it has led to an unusual amount of discussion and controversy in the robotics community.”

Akhil Langer’s work as an undergraduate student in India has already garnered him recognition for creating technology solutions with a high impact factor for developing countries.  His system to analyze biomedical questions posed via noisy SMS text delivers answers to medical questions and helps the general population locate doctors, and also resulted in a national level award. His current work with Professor Kale focuses on collaborative, cross-disciplinary applications of high performance computing at peta- and exa-scale. His projects range from parallelizing the decision-making process for allocation of military and civilian aircraft to simulations using adaptive mesh refinement with applications in numerical cosmology, global atmospheric modeling and mantle convection modeling. He also works on scalable algorithms for optimizing communication in parallel programs.

Observing the intrinsic parallelism found in nature, Harshitha Menon was inspired to make the beauty of parallelism pervasive in computing.  Towards her goal, Menon’s research spans the areas of parallel computing and distributed systems.  Working with Professor Kale, Menon’s research aims to harness the power of multiprocessors and distributed systems to sustain the ever-increasing performance requirement of today’s applications. Menon’s passion for teaching has led her to create innovative teaching labs and collaborative problem solving methods in the computer science courses she currently teaches.

Nipun Sehrawat has been involved in various projects relating to virtualization and cloud computing since his undergraduate years.  His current work in the area focuses on scalability and performance aspects of the emergent fields, with particular emphasis on highly available and replicated cloud databases. His work with Professor Indranil Gupta to develop a distributed build solution led to the development of an algorithm that outperforms the next best solution, and may lead to shorter development cycles and increased productivity for large software development firms.

About Siebel Scholars

The Siebel Scholars program was established by the Siebel Foundation in 2000 to recognize the most talented students at the world’s leading graduate schools of business, computer science, and bioengineering. Each year, 85 exceptional students receive a $35,000 award during their final year of studies based on outstanding academic performance and leadership. Today, an active community of more than 700 Scholars serves as advisors to the Siebel Foundation and works collaboratively to find solutions to society’s most pressing problems.

This exceptional group has the unique opportunity to directly influence the technologies, policies, and economic and social decisions that shape the future. Siebel Scholars serve as key advisors to the Siebel Foundation, guiding the development of innovative programs the Foundation initiates. The Siebel Scholars community is also integral to a highly outcome-driven Siebel Scholars conference held each year to explore critical social issues.
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Contact: Jennifer LaMontagne, associate director of communications, Department of Computer Science, 217/333-4049.

Kim Taba DeRose, Siebel Scholars Foundation, 650/752-1016.

If you have any questions about the College of Engineering, or other story ideas, contact Rick Kubetz, Engineering Communications Office, 217/244-7716, editor. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.