Four Brown CS Students Receive CRA Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Honors

Click the links that follow for more news about previous recipients of honors for this award and other recent accomplishments by our students.

The Computing Research Association (CRA) is a coalition of more than 200 organizations with the mission of enhancing innovation by joining with industry, government, and academia to strengthen research and advance education in computing. Every year, they recognize North American students who show phenomenal research potential with their Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Award, and for 2023-2024, four Brown CS students received honors: Megan Frisella (Finalist) and Anh Truong, Qiuhong Anna Wei, and Carolyn Zech (Honorable Mention).

Megan Frisella

“My main research project,” Megan says, “is about soft memory, a new form of flexible memory that helps increase server utilization in datacenters. The work is done in the ETOS group under the advising of [Assistant Professor] Malte Schwarzkopf. Traditional memory is inflexible: once memory is allocated to an application, it cannot be reallocated until the application terminates or explicitly frees it. This incentivizes datacenter operators to evict low-priority jobs and run at low memory utilization. Soft memory is a software level abstraction on top of DRAM that makes memory revocable under memory pressure, for reallocation elsewhere. Our system avoids out-of-memory terminations because soft memory can always be reclaimed from an application to fulfill a request elsewhere. We published a paper on Soft Memory at HotOS 2023.

In addition to systems research, I am also interested in programming languages. Last summer, I joined the RiSE group at Microsoft Research where I worked on a domain-specific language in F*, called Pulse, for proof-oriented imperative programming. While most proof-oriented languages are functional, Pulse enables developers to write programs with proofs in a Rust-like syntax. Pulse extends F* with proof automation, custom proof syntax, and imperative programming paradigms like loops. We have a Pulse tutorial in POPL 2024 TutorialFest.”

Anh Truong

“My research,” Anh tells us, “lies at the intersection of computer graphics and machine learning. I've been working on a project with [Eliot Horowitz Assistant Professor of Computer Science] Daniel Ritchie that aims to achieve few-shot synthesis of 3D shapes: our goal is to help novice users easily generate novel 3D models which borrow geometric features from a small set of example models they may have readily available. Such a system could allow designers to easily populate virtual worlds with varied geometry or iterate by generating many candidate models from which the most desirable can be expanded upon. A highlight of the project for me has been exploring the interface between geometry processing and machine learning and seeing how creatively ideas from these two (seemingly unrelated) fields have mingled. I am immensely grateful to have been able to work with Daniel and my wonderful labmates, and I look forward to exploring much more of computer graphics.”

Qiuhong Anna Wei

Anna’s research, she explains, centers around building visual reasoning methods and making technology more trustworthy.

“I’ve been working,” she says, “with [Assistant Professor] Srinath Sridhar at Brown IVL and Professor Leonidas Guibas from Stanford University on 3D vision and learning, specifically canonicalization of collections of objects, in the setting of indoor furniture rearrangement when given relatively extensive or limited information. I’ve also worked with Daniel Ritchie recently in exploring the differences and similarities in human and machine understanding of layouts and ‘regularity’, as part of a larger project on open-universe scene generation with LLM program synthesis. On the other front, I have been working with [Assistant Professor] Peihan Miao and [James A. and Julie N. Brown Professor of Computer Science] Anna Lysyanskaya on private computing on set intersection in cryptography. We’re especially interested in how the key component, oblivious shuffle realized via switching networks, may be optimized to achieve better efficiency or adapted to different frameworks or security settings.”

Carolyn Zech

“Paralegal,” Carolyn explains, “is a static analyzer that verifies Rust applications for compliance with user-specified policies. If an application fails to abide by a policy, Paralegal identifies the problematic code segment(s). Developers leverage Paralegal to prevent vulnerabilities from reaching production. Currently, developers write their Paralegal policies as graph queries, which makes policy-writing laborious and error-prone. My research focuses on developing a natural language interface for Paralegal, so that developers can specify high-level, intuitive policies (for example, ‘all users are authorized before accessing application data’) and receive quick notification of whether their code is compliant.”

Anh, Anna, Carolyn, and Megan join numerous prior Brown CS recipients of Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Award honors. Most recently, they include Rachel Ma (Honorable Mention, 2022), Jiaju Ma (Finalist, 2021), Wasu Piriyakulkij (Honorable Mention, 2021), Nitya Thakkar (Honorable Mention, 2021), Sarah Bawabe (Honorable Mention, 2020), Nishanth Kumar (Finalist, 2020), Dylan Sam (Honorable Mention, 2020), and Homer Walke (Honorable Mention, 2020).

The full list of Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Award recipients and honorees is available here.

For more information, click the link that follows to contact Brown CS Communications Manager Jesse C. Polhemus.