CS Grad Student Selected for NSF Fellowship

08-31-2015
Writer(s): Jesica E. Hollinger

CS graduate student, Dan Andersen has been selected to participate in the  NSF Graduate Research Fellowship.

His reaction was one of surprise, when he learned that he had been named to the program, with an ironic twist, since he hadn’t received the initial email notifying him of his selection.

“The fellowship is only awarded to a few thousand students every year, so I was surprised to find out that I had received it.  I had never actually received the acceptance email, only a subsequent email reminding me to accept the award before a deadline,” Andersen said. “I didn’t know I had been awarded the fellowship, so you can imagine how confused I was,” he added.

His fellowship provides $34,000 of funding for three years. He will be considered a fellow for five years, and has the option of selecting funding for three, 12-month periods during those five years. More than 16,000 applications are entered, and of those, only 2000 awards are made for this prestigious award.

Andersen said his CS faculty advisors have taken a very active role in helping him be successful.

“My advisor, Professor Voicu Popescu, has really taken an active role in helping me grow as a grad student, and has been a big factor in my academic success so far,” Andersen said.”  “I also appreciate Professor Daniel Aliaga who has provided a great deal of expertise in the world of graphics, and has given me opportunities with various projects, which helped me build a personal set of tools I can use to tackle new problems,” he added.

He also noted that Professor Juan Wachs in Industrial Engineering (the PI of his research project) was a great motivator in his efforts. Anderson said that this fellowship is very valuable to both him and society, because the support is created to help the student, not fund a research project.

“While I'll need to keep the NSF updated on what I'm doing, I'm not actually tied down by an obligation to the specific research proposal I wrote in the application. This is an important issue for me,” Andersen said. “ A lot of funding agencies focus a lot on short-term return on investment, the desire to only back winners, and to get exactly what was in a project proposal. I can understand that, but it leads to very safe, very incremental improvements, turning away from some research directions because of financial obligations, rather than the results unlooked for that can shake things up,” he added.

Andersen has postponed his funding at this time, since he holds an RA position, so his current status is "on reserve". The purpose of the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) is to help ensure the vitality and diversity of the scientific and engineering workforce of the United States.

His current research with Professor Popescu was a key factor in his selection for the fellowship. The System for Telementoring with Augmented Reality (STAR) helps deliver high-quality expert guidance to less experienced surgeons from an expert surgeon via telecommunication. This is especially useful for combat medics, who can get live instruction for trauma cases. It’s also vital to rural hospitals, where a patient may need urgent care without being moved to a larger facility, and a general surgeon needs access to a specialist’s expertise.

For more information about the award visit http://www.nsfgrfp.org/.

Learn more about STAR at https://engineering.purdue.edu/starproj/.

Read the recent article in Purdue Today at

http://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/releases/2015/Q3/surgeons-may-get-remote-assistance-with-new-telementoring-system.html.