Computer science students named prestigious Siebel Scholars

Jennifer Golda Sep 30, 2012

Since the year 2000, 85 graduate students from American universities have been invited to join the prestigious Siebel Scholars community, which represents the year’s best in the fields of business, bioengineering, and computer science. The last U.S. News and World Report rankings put Carnegie Mellon’s School of Computer Science at No. 7 nationally and No. 9 globally for computer science.

Given that, it may come as little surprise that five Carnegie Mellon computer science graduate students are this year’s newly named Siebel Scholars: Ruta Desai, Sanjiban Choudhury, Martina Rau, Min Kyung Lee, and Zeyu Zheng. They will each receive a $35,000 scholarship to go toward their final year of study. However, this award does not stop at the check. At an annual conference, Siebel Scholars meet with leaders from their fields, discuss major issues, and give their input for the Siebel Foundation’s research.

“The benefits of becoming a Siebel Scholar are more than financial: They become part of a worldwide community of scholars, engaged in initiatives of societal importance, under the direction of Tom Siebel,” Randy Bryant, dean of the School of Computer Science, explained.

“I really want to know what impact I can create as a Siebel Scholar and that I really don’t know yet,” said Desai, a master’s student in robotics whose research focuses on legged robots. “We are going to a conference, and there I can learn what exactly I will be able to do when I meet other amazing people with whom I can collaborate.” Desai described how grateful she was to her advisers for their support after she came to the U.S. to study. With this award, she is excited for the opportunity to give back to them.

Choudhury is a graduate student researching engineering problems in autonomous helicopters.

“For me at least, it would be just to have a wider perspective of things,” Choudhury explained as his goal as a scholar. “It’s to be responsible, because we are at a stage where it’s not enough to think about our own fields but to really apply and expand your thinking into all issues.”

“Being recognized as someone who’s good in research motivates me to do more good research and to fulfill that expectation,” said Rau, a Ph.D. student in human-computer interaction whose research focuses on intelligent tutoring systems.

Not only is being a scholar a chance to improve the world; as Rau suggested, it is also a chance to improve oneself.

Lee, another Ph.D. student in human-computer interaction, whose research works to optimize human-robot interactions, agreed. She said she finds inspiration looking at the other recipients. She recalled how she looked at other scholars’ online profiles, and realized that they apply their research toward making products that help people.

“This is something that I want to try to do,” Lee said.

Zheng, a graduate student in the Language Technologies Institute researching social domain adaptation, also expressed gratitude for being named a scholar. “I think that I just feel very honored to get this,” Zheng said. “It’s very influential and you have many opportunities here. I think it’s just a wonderful experience.”

“Every year, the School of Computer Science gets to select five graduate students to become Siebel Scholars. Given that we have over 600 students in our M.S. and Ph.D. programs, it’s highly competitive,” Bryant said. “We are pleased that our students are able to participate in this program.”