National Science Foundation fellows pursue research at ECE ILLINOIS
Five ECE ILLINOIS graduate students have received National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowships, including two fellows, Ryan Corey and Minji Kim, who are conducting groundbreaking research alongside CSL professors.
The fellowships consist of a three-year annual stipend of $32,000, as well as $12,000 in tuition allowances paid to the university attended. It also allows the fellows to conduct their research at any accredited U.S. institution they choose. Graduate student fellows have gone on to win Nobel prizes and found highly successful companies, such as fellow Sergey Brin, who co-founded Google.
“If we allow the output to have some uncertainty, which is acceptable in some signal processing and communication applications, we should be able to make the circuit much smaller and faster," he said. "I do theoretical work related to probability and random processes to help support circuit designers who are building these systems.”
Corey did not receive his fellowship the first time he applied, and encourages starting early and staying positive.
“My advice to students is this: Apply for fellowships, even if you don’t think you have a good chance of winning,” he said. “Seniors, in particular, should apply for this fellowship before they write their grad school applications. I didn’t win the fellowship my first year, or my second, but writing the fellowship essays helped me write better personal statements in grad school applications.”
“It is an exciting line of work as very few researchers have the training to apply new developments in communications theory to relevant problems in biology and big data,” Kim said.
“When I started my graduate studies at Illinois, my advisor Professor Olgica Milenkovic suggested that I explore computational biology, as there are many interesting open questions in the field may be solved in a unique and efficient manner,” Kim said. “I subsequently took MCB 150, the molecular and cellular basis of life, and was amazed at how similar, yet different and complex, biological information processing is to digital information processing and transmission. It inspired me to apply my undergraduate background in information and coding theory to bioinformatics, which led to my current research.”
These National Science Foundation fellows, in addition to the other ECE ILLINOIS fellows Lonna Edwards, Andrew Bower and Ross Liederbach, are looking into a variety of concerns, ranging from designing more efficient circuits to developing imaging techniques to catch cancer cells earlier. According to many of the fellows, achieving this prestigious accomplishment comes down to persistence and positivity. Like Corey, Bower did not receive his fellowship the first time he applied for it, and as a result, his advice to students seeking the fellowship is “to be persistent.”
“I applied for this fellowship last year and did not receive the award,” Bower said. “After taking the advice given to me last year and redeveloping my proposal and other statements, my application was much stronger. There is always a bit of luck involved with these programs, but you have to give yourself the best chance you can.”