Five UChicago CS Students Named to Siebel Scholars 2022 Class

September 23, 2021

Three PhD students and two students in the MS in Computational Analysis and Public Policy (MS-CAPP) program were named to the 2022 class of the Siebel Scholars — a program that awards grants to 16 universities in the United States and other countries.

The University of Chicago Department of Computer Science was selected for the Siebel Scholars program in 2017. Since then, 23 UChicago CS students have been chosen by the Thomas and Stacey Siebel Foundation to join the group, which “brings together diverse perspectives from business, science, and engineering to influence the technologies, policies, and economic and social decisions that shape the future,” according to the foundation

“Every year, the Siebel Scholars continue to impress me with their commitment to academics and influencing future society. This year’s class is exceptional, and once again represents the best and brightest minds from around the globe who are advancing innovations in healthcare, artificial intelligence, financial services, and more,” said Thomas M. Siebel, Chairman of the Siebel Scholars Foundation. “It is my distinct pleasure to welcome these students into this ever-growing, lifelong community, and I personally look forward to seeing their impact and contributions unfold.”

This year’s class of UChicago CS Siebel Scholars includes students studying quantum computing, security and privacy, and energy-efficient software, as well as master’s students working with policymakers, non-profits, and governments on applying data-driven and computational methods for transformative social impact. Read more about each student below:

Natalie Ayers, a student in the MS-CAPP program, is committed to helping policymakers and governments use computational methods to understand complex problems. While working with the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office, Natalie created an interactive data visualization tool for public officials to investigate Chicago's gunshot homicides and opioid deaths through spatial and statistical analysis. She currently partners with the World Bank and Berkeley’s Center for Effective Global Action to build tools that help policymakers incorporate geographic data sources and techniques into their analyses. Natalie is a leader on campus: she co-chairs the Project on Political Reform student organization, serves on the Student Advisory Board of the Institute of Politics, and is active with the Pearson Institute for the Study and Resolution of Global Conflict

Jonathan Baker’s current research has three main foci: evaluating the best abstractions for efficient quantum computation such as the best computing radix, exploring the viability of emerging architectures such as memory-based superconductors or neutral atoms, and optimization of quantum programs based on underlying hardware physics such as pulse shaping. During his time as a graduate student he has led a dozen research projects, working closely with new graduate students and mentoring undergraduate students. Jonathan has been a leader in creating the field of Quantum Computer Systems Design, in which he has taught tutorials to researchers, co-designed and co-taught a first-of-its-kind undergraduate/graduate course at UChicago on the subject, and created an online instructional module. He is currently finishing his PhD in computer science at the University of Chicago, advised by Fred Chong

Caton Brewster, a student in the MS-CAPP program, helps local, on-the-ground nonprofit organizations leverage their data to serve vulnerable populations around the world. As a researcher in Botswana, she led the design of data collection procedures and implemented monitoring and evaluation tools to ensure the organization's health and education programs were effective. Her efforts led to triple the treatment effect size for an HIV prevention program and an 80% reduction in innumeracy for those participating in a remedial education program.  Previously, she was a Senior Research Analyst at Innovations for Poverty Action working with teams around the world to evaluate their programs using randomized control trials. Caton serves on the Academic Committee of the student government. 

Weijia He is a fourth-year Ph.D. student, advised by Professor Blase Ur. Her research focuses on security and privacy issues in the IoT and ubiquitous computing. She has published multiple papers at several top conferences (USENIX Security 2018, ICSE 2019, UbiComp 2020, EuroS&P 2020). She also actively contributes to the security and privacy community, including serving as Publications Chair for PETS (2022), an Artifact Evaluation Committee member for USENIX Security 2021, a shadow PC member for IEEE S&P 2020, and a PC member for several workshops. 

Chengcheng Wan is a fourth-year Ph.D. student, advised by Professor Shan Lu. Her research focuses on creating robust methods to incorporate neural networks into software systems to satisfy accuracy, performance, and energy-efficiency requirements across a variety of platforms and applications. Her research has led to first author papers published at top conferences (USENIX ATC, ICML, ICSE). She has won the Microsoft Research Dissertation Grant and was invited to the EECS Rising Stars workshop. Wan has served as a mentor in UChicago undergrad summer research program and an instructor for middle-school girls in compileHer program.