2020 Ada Lovelace and PhD Fellowships help recipients achieve broad research and educational goals


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In their second and thirteenth years respectively, the Ada Lovelace Fellowship and PhD Fellowship continue a Microsoft Research tradition of providing promising doctoral students in North America with funding to support their studies and research. This year, there were over 600 submissions between both fellowships. Microsoft Research is proud to announce the 2020 recipients for each of these awards. The breadth of fellows’ pursuits speaks to the increasingly broad impact of technology in the world today.

Ada Lovelace Fellowship recipients

The overarching goal of the Ada Lovelace Fellowship is to increase the diversity of talented people receiving advanced degrees in computing-related fields, and it provides three years of funding that supports research for second-year doctoral students from underrepresented groups in the field of computing.

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PhD students receiving the Ada Lovelace Fellowship in 2020 are pursuing a wide range of research, some at the intersection of technology and other disciplines. Take for instance, fellowship recipient Sarah Riley, a PhD student at Cornell University whose focus lies on municipal algorithmic studies and social inequality. From the perspective of her field, information science, she is examining bias as it relates to dataset shift and pretrial risk assessments.

Another recipient, David Acuna, a PhD student in the Machine Learning Group at the University of Toronto, looks at datasets from another perspective. Acuna’s research is in artificial intelligence—specifically deep learning as a powerful tool, but one that also poses new challenges. “… [I]f we truly want to unleash [deep learning’s] potential, we need to overcome the need for massive manually labeled datasets. It does not scale and is impractical for many applications. My research tries to mitigate this issue.”

Acuna is especially looking forward to connecting with peers and other experts in the research community through the fellowship. “This fellowship opens up an incredible opportunity for collaboration with top researchers in one of the top institutions of the world. Being the recipient of the award, it is a tremendous privilege and honor.”

Jazette Johnson, a recipient of the fellowship who is a PhD student at University of California, Irvine, is hoping to improve the mental, emotional, and social health of people with dementia. Johnson’s research seeks to understand how to better support people with dementia and their caregivers through the design of virtual support technologies. “This fellowship will not only ease the financial burden that sometimes comes with being in graduate schools, but it will also give me the opportunity to solely focus on the research that has interested me for years,” Johnson says.


Ada Lovelace Fellowship recipient Jazette Johnson studies human-computer interaction and virtual support systems in her work as a PhD student at University of California, Irvine.

Explore all bios of the 2020 Ada Lovelace Fellowship recipients: https://aka.ms/ada-lovelace-fellows

PhD Fellowship recipients

Recipients of the PhD Fellowship this year are working on research where technology meets healthcare, language, economics, security, and many other fields. This fellowship has supported over 150 fellows since its inception in 2008. The fellowship is awarded for two years to third-year PhD candidates who aim to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

This mentality can be seen in the work of fellowship recipient Sarah Fakhoury, PhD student at Washington State University, whose research blends techniques from neurocognitive science and empirical software engineering. Fakhoury hopes to develop tools and procedures that can advance program language design as it relates to individual stakeholders, language designers, and, on a larger scale, companies. Fakhoury notes a direct connection to work being done by Microsoft researchers. “The support of this fellowship is fundamental to my research—most notably it provides me with the unique opportunity to work with the wide range of experts at Microsoft, who have the skills and experience needed to not only participate in empirical research studies, but to provide diverse feedback on how to improve the tools and language infrastructure they work with on a daily basis.”

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Sarah Fakhoury, PhD Fellowship recipient and student at Washington State University, studies the way programmers write and review code, a unique combination of neurocognitive and computer sciences.

Fellowship recipient Jieyu Zhao is a PhD student at the University of California, Los Angeles. Zhao’s research examines the various potential stereotypes that lie in machine learning models and aims to develop computational approaches that enhance fairness in natural language processing applications. “Microsoft Research PhD Fellowship provides me a great opportunity to make my research aware to more people,” Zhao explains and goes on to emphasize the new directions this work can take in collaboration with Microsoft researchers while considering a broader audience. “I hope my research can inspire people to think about the potential problems in the models and make sure the models we release do not hurt specific groups of people.”

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In the Department of Computer Science at UCLA, PhD Fellowship recipient Jieyu Zhao studies problems in natural language processing and machine learning.

On the cutting edge of quantum computing, fellowship recipient and PhD student Poulami Das, who attends Georgia Institute of Technology, is pursuing more efficient micro-architectural design to detect and correct errors in fault-tolerant quantum computers, improving their reliability. Das’s research interests also include superconducting logic and conventional computer architecture. In the fellowship, Das sees an opportunity to work with Microsoft quantum researchers and focus on these specific problems. Das goes on to say that the “collaboration and feedback will allow me to grow as a researcher.”

Explore all bios of the 2020 PhD Fellowship recipients: https://aka.ms/phd-fellows

Microsoft Research is excited to provide this support and see the many directions all the 2020 Ada Lovelace and PhD Fellowship recipients will take their research. You can learn more about each fellowship at their pages: Ada Lovelace Fellowship and PhD Fellowship. To learn more about the many Microsoft Research fellowship and grant opportunities for both faculty and students, visit our academic programs page.

Microsoft Research congratulates the 2020 Ada Lovelace and PhD fellows!

We encourage you to explore fellowship recipients’ work further by visiting their professional websites.

2020 Microsoft Research Ada Lovelace Fellowship recipients

David Acuna, University of Toronto | website
Jazette Johnson, University of California, Irvine | website
Aditi Laddha, Georgia Institute of Technology | website
Sarah A. Riley, Cornell University | website
Wenqi Xian, Cornell University | website

2020 Microsoft Research PhD Fellowship recipients

Emily Alsentzer, Massachusetts Institute of Technology & Harvard Medical School | website
Poulami Das, Georgia Institute of Technology | website
Sarah Fakhoury, Washington State University | website
Zoë Hitzig, Harvard University | website
Zhiyuan Li, Princeton University | website
Amine Mhedhbi, University of Waterloo | website
Wilson Qin, Harvard University | website
Jingxian Wang, Carnegie Mellon University | website
Jiyong Yu, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign | website
Jieyu Zhao, University of California, Los Angeles | website