Four UChicago CS Students Selected for Rising Stars Program

October 17, 2020

Clockwise from upper left: Yi Ding, Jean Salac, Junwen Yang, and Chengcheng Wan.

Four PhD students from the Department of Computer Science, Yi Ding, Jean Salac, Chengcheng Wan, and Junwen Yang, have been selected for the 2020 edition of the Rising Stars workshop, a prestigious program for boosting the careers of women in CS and related fields. 

Launched at MIT in 2012, the annual Rising Stars event has been hosted at the University of California at Berkeley, Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Stanford University. This year’s edition will be virtually hosted by UC Berkeley, and around 150 participants were selected based on academic excellence, interest in a faculty career in electrical engineering or computer science, and commitment to advancing equity and inclusion.

For all four students, the Rising Stars acceptance is just the latest in a string of honors. Last month, Ding was awarded the CRA Computing Innovation Fellowship, providing support for promising scientists entering the job market during the pandemic crisis. With her advisor Diana Franklin, Salac received a Best Paper award at the 2020 International Computing Education Research (ICER) conference. Yang was recently named one of five UChicago CS 2021 Siebel Scholars by the Thomas and Stacey Siebel Foundation, and Yang and Wan were part of the team that received the Distinguished Paper award at the 2019 International Conference on Software Engineering (ICSE). 

A member of Associate Professor Hank Hoffmann’s research group, Ding studies applications of machine learning and causal inference in computer systems optimization and experimental design, and using statistical methods to develop more interpretable forms of machine learning. Her papers have examined the combination of machine learning and causal inference methods for improving system performance and new methods for analyzing policy outcomes and clinical trials.  Ding has also been very active in UChicago CS student organizations, serving as co-chair of the department’s Graduate Women in Computer Science (GWICS) chapter and “Prime Minister” of the graduate student ministry.

Salac works with Diana Franklin's CANON Lab, studying new approaches to computer science education that improve students' computational literacy and broaden participation in the field. In 2019, she received the NSF Graduate Research Fellowhsip, and in addition to ICER, she has presented papers at SIGCSE and SIGCHI. She also leads the UChicago chapter of Graduate Women in Computer Science (GWiCS) and serves on the graduate student board as diversity and inclusion representative to advocate for female-identifying and minority students. Read an interview with Salac on the PSD website.

Wan is a fourth-year Ph.D. student advised by Professor Shan Lu. Her research focus is on software engineering and system support for machine learning in real world applications. She has worked on the proposal of advanced DNN systems for helping developers satisfy differing requirements and goals across a variety of users and applications. Her research has lead to papers published at top conferences (ICSE'19, ATC’20, ICML’20). 

Yang, a fourth-year PhD student also advised by Shan Lu, develops and tests new methods for automatically detecting and fixing performance and correctness bugs in big data software through a combination of program analysis, software engineering, and database techniques. In addition to the ICSE ‘19 award, her research has led to first-author papers published at top software engineering conferences (FSE’18, ICSE’18, ICSE’19, SPLASH’19, ICSE’20) and the 2019 SIGPLAN John Vlissides Award. Additionally, Yang has served as a mentor in UChicago ACM-W mentor program and an instructor in the compileHer program, teaching computer science and STEM concepts to middle school girls.

The workshop, which runs November 9th and 10th, includes research presentations, mentoring sessions, and career panels about navigating academic life. Roughly 60 participants are selected each year.