Four UMD Graduate Students Receive NSF Graduate Research Fellowships

Apr 10, 2020

Four University of Maryland graduate students have just been awarded prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) fellowships.

The fellowships, which offer a three-year annual stipend and a tuition allowance, are given to outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees at accredited U.S. institutions.

Makana Castillo-Martin, Lillian Huang, Jason Fan and Nicholas Franzese—all second-year doctoral students in computer science—are among the 2,000-plus students to receive the fellowship this year.

All four are conducting research in centers that are part of the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies (UMIACS).

Castillo-Martin is affiliated with the Maryland Cybersecurity Center, Huang is in the Center for Automation Research, and Fan and Franzese work in the Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology.

“I’m happy to see our students honored with prestigious NSF Graduate Research Fellowships that acknowledge their hard work in their research endeavors and in the classroom,” says Amitabh Varshney, professor and dean of UMD’s College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences.

Castillo-Martin, who graduated with an undergraduate degree in mathematics and computer science from Reed College, conducts research in cryptography, focusing on secure computation and privacy. She is also interested in adversarial machine learning.

Huang, who graduated with an undergraduate degree in honors physics and computer science from the University of Michigan, is doing research on low-shot learning in image classification and recognition.

She is advised by Abhinav Shrivastava, an assistant professor of computer science who has an appointment in UMIACS.

“Lillian is a hardworking researcher, working on the challenging and timely problem of low-shot representation learning for visual recognition,” Shrivastava says. “She is also a supportive and effective mentor to other students.”

Fan, who graduated with an undergraduate degree in computer science and mathematics from Tufts University, is interested in developing algorithms to understand disease models and cancer with biological networks. Currently, he is researching algorithms that learn representations and make predictions across multiple biological networks from different species.

Franzese, who graduated with an undergraduate degree in mathematics and biology from Reed College, says his research interests are tied together by a common theme: modeling that aligns powerful computational methods with intuitive biological narratives. His current research applies probabilistic graphical models to cancer data.

Both Fan and Franzese are advised by Max Leiserson, an assistant professor of computer science who has an appointment in UMIACS.

“Jason and Nick are both very well deserving of this recognition,” Leiserson says. “Jason is an exceptionally versatile researcher, and a talented teacher and mentor. Nick is a deeply insightful and independent researcher, and a gifted writer.”

—Story by Melissa Brachfeld