Brown CS News

Ma, Piriyakulkij, And Thakkar Earn CRA Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Honors

Click the links that follow for more news about previous recipients of honors for this award and other recent accomplishments by our students.

The Computing Research Association (CRA) is a coalition of more than 200 organizations with the mission of enhancing innovation by joining with industry, government, and academia to strengthen research and advance education in computing. Every year, they recognize North American students who show phenomenal research potential with their Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Award, and in 2022, Brown CS alum Jiaju Ma was one of only twenty finalists. Brown CS alum Wasu Piriyakulkij and Brown CS student Nitya Thakkar received Honorable Mentions.

Jiaju situates his research by explaining that despite the abundance of commercial creativity support tools like Figma and Adobe Creative Suite, there exists a significant gap between the creative outputs of a designer and a layperson.

"Just as researchers employ scientific methodologies," he says, "designers utilize established principles; I apply iterative design and human-centered design thinking from industrial design to build innovative solutions. Without such knowledge, it can be difficult for a layperson to achieve similar results with the same tools."

Drawing from the interdisciplinary background in computer science and industrial design he acquired in the Brown-RISD Dual Degree Program, Jiaju hopes to build hybrid human-artificial intelligence (AI) creativity support tools that actively assist lay users to apply design principles for more effective outputs, shaping the future of work in domains like Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), animation, and fabrication.

"I couldn't have won this without the support from Brown CS," Jiaju says, "and especially from my advisor, Jeff Huang."

Nitya explains that her research focuses on using machine learning methods to understand biological data. "At Brown," she says, "I'vebeen working with Dr. Ritambhara Singh on a project to predict the three-dimensional organization of our DNA from one-dimensional biological experiments with the goal of understanding gene interaction mechanisms. I also interned at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, where I worked on a project to apply machine learning methods to spatial genetic data in Classical Hodgkin's Lymphoma, with the goal of understanding cellular interactions in the cancerous environment."

After completing her degree at Brown, Nitya plans to pursue a PhD in computational biology.

The full list of Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Award recipients and honorees is available here.

For more information, click the link that follows to contact Brown CS Communication Outreach Specialist Jesse C. Polhemus.