Goldstein, Froehlich Awarded Sloan Research Fellowships

Tue Feb 21, 2017

Two University of Maryland computer scientists have been named 2017 Sloan Research Fellows, a select honor reserved for early-career scientists and scholars of outstanding promise.

Tom Goldstein, an expert in high-performance systems and distributed computing, and Jon Froehlich, who specializes in ubiquitous computing and human-computer interaction, were chosen along with 124 other scientists and scholars in the United States and Canada to receive the award.

Each Sloan Research Fellow receives a two-year $60,000 grant to support his or her research interests.

“The Sloan Research Fellows are the rising stars of the academic community,” says Paul L. Joskow, president of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. “Through their achievements and ambition, these young scholars are transforming their fields and opening up entirely new research horizons. We are proud to support them at this crucial stage of their careers.”

Goldstein and Froehlich are assistant professors in the Department of Computer Science. Each has an appointment in the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies (UMIACS).

“We are fortunate to have these two rising stars at the University of Maryland,” says Jayanth Banavar, dean of the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences. “By providing significant insights into how computers learn from data and how humans interact with computers, Tom's and Jon’s research efforts are having broad impacts on a wide range of disciplines.”

Goldstein’s research lies at the intersection of optimization and distributed computing, where he often targets applications involving machine learning and image processing. He plans to use the fellowship to focus on several difficult problems in machine learning theory.

“The Sloan support gives me freedom to work on a number of ‘outside the box’ projects that are more high-risk, yet high-reward, than my typical research,” Goldstein says.

He intends to approach a number of challenging theoretical problems in deep learning while also working on experimental methods for accelerating machine learning using supercomputers.

Goldstein received the Sloan award in the field of mathematics. Many of the high-impact papers in machine learning and image processing areas have deep underlying mathematical ideas, he explains, and people expect these new algorithms to come with a rigorous mathematical proof of correctness.

“Machine learning in particular has seen a big influx of mathematicians in the last few years,” he says, “and I think that many problems in the field are actually addressed better using the toolbox of a mathematician than by classical methods in computer science.”

Froehlich plans to use the Sloan funding to continue his interdisciplinary work that addresses high-value social issues like environmental sustainability, computer accessibility and personalized health and wellness.

“My receiving a Sloan Research Fellowship is due in no small part to the students and faculty collaborators that enable my work and push me to be better,” he says.

Froehlich is active in the Makeability Lab, a research lablet he founded that focuses on designing and studying novel interactive experiences.

One effort, called Project Sidewalk, is creating a crowd-sourced map of sidewalks in Washington, D.C. to assist pedestrians with accessibility issues. People can log on to the project’s website and digitally tag sidewalk obstacles like damaged curb ramps or other impediments that present a physical barrier to those that rely on a wheelchair or walker.

Another project involves a cross-disciplinary team investigating new interfaces, techniques and tools that encourage children ages 5–10 to build and program their own interactive wearables. The goal is to inspire kids to become active in science and technology at an early age.

“These projects represent my team’s mission of using the latest advances in computing to design, build and evaluate interactive technologies that can have a positive societal impact. The support from the Sloan Foundation will help with that,” says Froehlich.


About the Sloan Research Fellowship: Administered and funded by the Sloan Foundation, the fellowships are awarded in eight scientific fields—chemistry, computer science, economics, mathematics, computational and evolutionary molecular biology, neuroscience, ocean science and physics. Winners are selected through close cooperation with the scientific community. To qualify, candidates must first be nominated by their fellow research scientists and are subsequently selected by an independent panel of senior scholars.

About the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences: The College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences at the University of Maryland educates more than 7,000 future scientific leaders in its undergraduate and graduate programs each year. The college’s 10 departments and more than a dozen interdisciplinary research centers foster scientific discovery with an annual sponsored research funding exceeding $150 million.

More about Tom Goldstein: Goldstein’s research is supported by the Office of Naval Research, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Defense High Performance Computing Modernization Program, Intel, and Google Cloud Platform. Before joining UMD in 2014, he completed his doctorate in mathematics at UCLA and was a research scientist at Rice University and Stanford University.

More about Jon Froehlich: Froehlich’s research is supported by the National Science Foundation, Google, the Department of Defense’s Clinical and Rehabilitative Medicine Research Program, Nokia and 3M. Before joining UMD in 2012, he completed his doctorate in computer science at the University of Washington and interned at Telefonica Research, Microsoft Research and Intel Research.