CfAR Graduate Student Receives Prestigious Department of Defense Fellowship

May 05, 2020

A graduate student in the Center for Automation Research has won a coveted Department of Defense National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate (NDSEG) Fellowship that will support his research in advancing artificial neural networks.

Jerad “Alex” Hanson, a first-year doctoral student in computer science, was one of several hundred graduate students selected to receive the NDSEG Fellowship this year from a pool of more than 4,100 applicants.

The highly competitive fellowship is designed to increase the number of U.S. citizens and nationals trained in science and engineering disciplines that are of importance to the U.S. military. The award covers full tuition, provides a monthly stipend and health insurance coverage, and offers a travel budget for professional development for a period of up to three years.

Hanson, who graduated with an undergraduate degree in mathematics and mechanical engineering from the University of Illinois and earned a master’s degree in computer science from the University of Maryland, says his current research is focused on selecting data to make neural networks faster and more accurate. Specifically, he says, his work aims to capture meaningful representations of high-level concepts from data via machine learning, and then use geometric methods to interpret and improve those representations.

Abhinav Shrivastava, an assistant professor of computer science with an appointment in the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies, says Hanson is very deserving of the NDSEG Fellowship.

“Alex’s work will make the widely used neural networks more efficient, robust, interpretable and transferable,” says Shrivastava, who is currently serving as Hanson’s academic adviser. “He is creative and hard-working and approaches his work with a unique combination of empirical science and mathematical formulations.”

Since the program’s inception in 1989, more than 4,000 NDSEG Fellowships have been awarded from the 60,000-plus applications received. It is sponsored by the Army, Navy and Air Force, and is administered by Systems Plus Inc.

—Story by Melissa Brachfeld