Campus News in Brief

CMU students given Microsoft fellowship

Gennady Pekhimenko, a Ph.D. student in the department of computer science and Jeff Rzeszotarski, a Ph.D. student in Human-Computer Interaction Institute are both recipients of the 2013 Microsoft Research PhD Fellowships.

According to the Microsoft website, the Microsoft Research PhD Fellowship is a two-year fellowship program for outstanding Ph.D. students nominated by their universities.

This program supports men and women in their third or fourth years of Ph.D. graduate studies. The fellowship recipient award will cover all tuition and fees for two academic years.

Pekhimenko’s research focuses on energy and performance characteristics of modern memory subsystems. Particularly, this research involves the application of novel algorithims for the compression of chip caches and memory storage designed to increase capacity while decreasing necessary hardware changes.

Rzeszotarski’s research is focused on online content generation and its improvement. Specifically, Rzeszotarski studies how online crowds generate content and how these products can be improved.

This research attempts to idenfity places where people are making mistakes, so that interventions can be implemented to improve these contributions.

Carnegie Mellon is the third-most represented university among the fellowship recipients, behind the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of California, Berkeley.

Unique research maps poisonous plants

Carnegie Mellon researchers are compiling a digital database in order to better identify poisonous plants.

Marios Savvides, director of the CyLab Biometrics Center at Carnegie Mellon, said in a university press release, “These plants are in our backyards and often wind up on our patios and even in our living rooms to add color during drab winter weather, so we really need to be aware of their impact on our health.”

Savvides is working in conjunction with Cynthia Morton, associate curator and botany expert at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.
“We are developing a comprehensive digital database with all the most dangerous plants and how these plants impact human health,” Morton said in a university press release.

“Because plants can’t move to escape their predators, they must have other means of protecting themselves. Some plants have physical defenses such as thorns, but by far, the most common protection is chemical and that’s where the poisonous plants come into play,” she said.

Although being poisoned by these plants rarely means death for the victim, the researchers believe that the ability to map and track where the poisonous plants cross paths with large portions of the population is critical to public safety.

The researchers hope to develop a smartphone app that will be able to identify a plant, its location, its level of toxicity, and an antidote for the poison just by taking a photograph with the phone.