Two PhD students represent Carnegie Mellon as first-ever recipients of $50,000 Samsung award

On Thursday, May 12, Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. announced the five members of the Samsung PhD Fellowship’s inaugural class, including two Carnegie Mellon students, third year in computer science Joy Arulraj and fourth year in electrical and computer engineering Niranjini Rajagopal.

This year, Samsung Semiconductor and the Samsung Strategy and Innovation Center (SSIC) co-sponsored the fellowship to support students pursuing their PhD in one of five areas: Software and Memory System Solutions for Data Centers; Low-Power CPU and System IP Architecture and Designs; Advanced Semiconductor Devices, Materials and Simulation; Internet of Things; and Smart Machines.

According to the press release, the fellowship "rewards those who dare to innovate.” Each winner will receive a $50,000 prize and a mentor from a Samsung lab to individually support their research and sponsor an internship.

"The program will help continue to drive student-led innovation at universities nationwide," representatives from Samsung said in an email to The Tartan. "Samsung’s program underlines the company's commitment to the progress of STEM education and will continue to support the renowned research reputation of the selected universities. By connecting each Fellow with an engineer from one of the Samsung Semiconductor or SSIC Labs in Silicon Valley or Austin, they will be on track for a prosperous academic and professional future, and have industry validation of their work."

Joy Arulraj was nominated for the fellowship by his advisor Andy Pavlo, professor of databaseology in the School of Computer Science. He plans to focus his research on “Rethinking Database Systems for Next-Generation Memory Technologies and RealTime Analytics.”

Arulraj said in an interview that he believes that "we are on the cusp of a radical shift in storage technology. A new class of non-volatile memory devices are being produced for the first time in more than 25 years." Preparing for this shift, Arulraj "[plans] to use this fellowship to explore the changes needed in database systems to support these emergent storage technologies.” With his team at the Database Lab, Arulraj has been working on Peloton, a database system made “for leveraging the unique set of attributes of non-volatile memory devices.”

Arulraj expressed his excitement at being one of this year's nominees due to his belief that "Samsung is the world’s largest manufacturer of digital memory and has a profound impact on the future of emerging non-volatile memory technologies. I am excited about the opportunity to collaborate with Samsung on understanding the changes needed in database systems to support these storage devices," Arulraj said. He would like to thank Pavlo and the university committee from SCS and COE for nominating him for this fellowship.

Niranjini Rajagopal was nominated by associate professors in electrical and computer engineering Anthony Rowe and Bruno Sinopoli. Her research will be focused on “Sensor Fusion and Automatic Infrastructure Mapping for Indoor Localization Systems.” Regarding her research, Rajagopal discussed the "tremendous progress" that researchers have made in the field of indoor localization over the past decade. However, she says that "there are several challenges that have to be solved before indoor location service becomes as pervasive and easy to use as the GPS location service," Rajagopal said. "I am working on some of these challenges, such as automating the deployment of these systems and opportunistic localization using the sensor fusion. As part of the fellowship, I am also fortunate to be mentored by one of the Samsung leaders in the area of Internet of Things."

Rajagopal feels very honored to be nominated by her advisors Rowe and Sinopoli and feels privileged to be represented in this year's recipients of the fellowship. "It was a competitive process overall, but my role was to share my work, some of the promising results and the vision of the project, which I was excited to talk about," Rajagopal said. "When I visited Samsung for the final round of the process, it was a great experience to meet the other finalists and the people at Samsung who were supporting the fellowship."

Nominations for next year’s class of the PhD Fellowship program will open in September 2016. Additional information about the fellowship program is available at: