The Randy F. Pausch '82 Computer Science Undergraduate Summer Research Award, given this year to Rhea Goyal and Eliot Laidlaw to support their work with Brown CS Professors Malte Schwarzkopf and James Tompkin, respectively, recognizes strong achievement from undergraduate researchers and offers them the opportunity to continue their work over the summer.
A generous gift from Peter Norvig '78 (a Director of Research at Google and a thought leader in the areas of artificial intelligence, natural language processing, information retrieval, and software engineering) established the award, which provides $10,000 annually to support an undergraduate engaged in an intensive faculty-student summer research partnership. The gift honors the life and work of Randy F. Pausch '82, a renowned expert in computer science, human-computer interaction, and design who died of complications from pancreatic cancer in 2008. "His story is inspiring," Peter says, "and this is an opportunity to remember him."
Rhea situates her work by explaining that in data science applications over large datasets, compute efficiency directly translates into monetary and energy savings. Her project will explore if two new technologies, serverless computing and data-driven compilation, can together make typical Python data science computations orders of magnitude more efficient. She and her fellow researchers will be using Tuplex, a new system that allows developers to write data analysis pipelines in the Python programming language, but executes them as fast, native machine code, achieving 6-100x speedups over state-of-the-art systems such as Apache Spark or Dask.
"I discovered the Tuplex project through the Brown CS Undergraduate Research Open House," she tells us. "After the initial presentation of all the ongoing research projects, other interested students and I gathered in Malte's office to ask questions about his work. It was at this point that I became really interested in the project. It had not occurred to me how slow Python could be when running on huge data sets, despite the fact that Python is one of the biggest languages used in data science. It was very exciting to find out that I had received the Pausch award – this is my first time working on a research project, and so I’m really looking forward to working on open problems in CS research. I'm also excited to work with the Tuplex team, because everyone has a very diverse range of experience and knowledge. I'll certainly learn a lot from working with everyone else."
Eliot explains that robotic teleoperation via virtual reality (VR) holds promise as a useful way to remotely control robots, but existing systems present a poor visualization of the environment to the user, which causes tiredness or even sickness in the user and limits the speed and dexterity of robot manipulation. This summer, he'll be working with James on an effective solution for VR teleoperation that satisfies three requirements:
- The user must have up-to-date (real time), high-fidelity visual information that allows for dexterous manipulation with the robot’s end effectors.
- The user must have enough visual information to give them the situational awareness required to move the robot around its environment.
- The system must present data in a way that does not induce discomfort or nausea for the user.
"I'm super excited to keep working with James on view synthesis and teleoperation," Eliot says. "Working with him for the last couple years has been really rewarding because he encourages exploration and gives insight on my and others' own ideas, but also knows how to push a project in the right direction towards actually creating something and getting it published. I did research over the summer a couple years ago, but it was at the height of COVID and I wasn't really up to speed on everything, so I'm excited to have a lot of time to really dive into it and also to be able to actually go into the CIT and work with people in person!"
Eliot and Rhea's excitement and curiosity are exactly what Peter Norvig is looking for. He sees this award as a multiplier that will amplify the value of his gift and extend it through time. "In the past," he says, "we had to build all our own tools, and we didn't have time to combine computer science with other fields. Now, there are so many opportunities to do so. I think it's a wise choice: you invest in things that you think will do good, and educating a student allows them to help add to the things that you're already trying to accomplish."
For more information, click the link that follows to contact Brown CS Communication Outreach Specialist Jesse C. Polhemus.