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Computer science professor selected as Sloan Fellow

Professor Tim Kraska to pursue research in democratizing data analysis tools

By
Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 22, 2017

For the fourth year in a row, a faculty member in the computer science department has been awarded the Sloan Research Fellowship, which recognizes the work and promise of early-career scholars by awarding winners a two-year, $65,000 fellowship, according to its website.

Tim Kraska, assistant professor of computer science, was selected as a fellow for his work to make data more accessible “through the development of a new generation of algorithms and systems for interactive and sustainable data-driven discovery,” according to his research statement.

“I think more people want to analyze data,” Kraska said. But “data scientists need year-long trainings in machine learning, statistics and data management, but not everybody has that.”

Professor of Computer Science Ugur Cetintemel nominated Kraska for the award. The department can nominate up to three candidates per year and, in most years, this quota has been filled, Cetintemel said. “We make an effort to make as many nominations as possible, as a shot not taken is a shot missed.”

With the fellowship grant, Kraska hopes to continue with his project developing programs that allow non-experts without technical skills to analyze and visualize data sets. He is currently working on three interconnected projects, according to his research statement. The first project, a new program called Tupleware, allows everyday users to conduct common analytical tasks. He also works to develop Vizdom — a touch- and pen-based interface that allows users to visually test hypotheses and build complex models with minimal effort. Finally, Kraska is working to develop an Interactive Data Exploration Accelerator that will facilitate visual data exploration and integrate it into Tupleware.

This year, the Sloan Fellowship received 800 applications from scholars across various fields and granted 126 fellowships, said Nathan Williams, Sloan’s communications manager. The foundation does not select the candidates and rather relies on three to four person committees composed of scientists in the field who consider factors like independent research, creativity and leadership, he added.

Sloan gives the researchers leeway to use the grant’s funds as they see fit, Williams said. At the end of the two years, fellows are expected to submit a report about how they allocated the money and what research results they found.

Cetintemel believes University faculty members have had success applying to Sloan due to their innovative approach. “I think Sloan is particularly looking for out-of-box thinking and creativity. They are looking for people who are not taking the beaten path,” Cetintemel said. “Typically, (the) faculty members we have are not very narrow and one-dimensional. We recruit people who can combine different areas and topics in a coherent and rigorous way to attack real-world problems (and) to come up with innovative solutions.”