Welcome to the first cohort of CBI fellows

CBI team

Jun 22, 2023

A compilation photo of the three CBI fellows

In January, the Carnegie Bosch Institute (CBI) announced the launch of our postdoctoral fellowships, a program offering two years of full support to a postdoctoral researcher to advance their career as a member of the CMU community. Our philosophy behind the design of this program was simple: provide outstanding researchers with the resources, flexibility, and environment to address “grand challenge” style problems in close collaboration with a CMU faculty member. The aim of these fellowships is to serve as a catalyst for exceptional individuals to expand their professional horizons and make a lasting positive impact in their academic careers.

We had an incredible response to our request for proposals, with nearly 50 applicants from top-tier Ph.D. programs around the world! Our review committee–consisting of both CMU faculty and industry mentors affiliated with CBI–had the difficult task to select candidates that best fit the criteria outlined in our Call for Applications:

  • Presentation of a compelling future research vision, both during their postdoctoral period and beyond
  • Proposal of a highly collaborative approach that maximizes their engagement with the campus community while at CMU
  • Potential for positive societal impact resulting from their work beyond the core scientific excellence

In addition, our top candidates not only had a distinguished academic track record, they also demonstrated an impressive aptitude for leadership. This took many forms, whether it was through their mentorship of fellow researchers, a strong interest in community building/engagement, or a passion for working beyond the traditional borders of their respective academic institutions.

Today, we have the privilege of introducing three remarkable candidates whose applications rose to the top of this fiercely competitive process: Meet William, Pratiksha, and Vivek–individuals whose passion, accomplishments, and potential make us proud to announce them as the first cohort of CBI fellows!

William Agnew: An inspiring advocate for equity and inclusion

William is a computer science Ph.D. candidate at University of Washington and the founding president of non-profit Queer in AI with research experiences at Google Research and Deep Mind. Through this fellowship, his goal is to make impactful arguments for the necessity and ethical benefit of people owning and controlling data and models about themselves.  By working with marginalized communities–in particular queer communities–he hopes to collaboratively develop operationalizable data and model ownership principles that meet the privacy, equity, and other needs of these communities. William will work with Sauvik Das, assistant professor of human-computer interaction, during his time at CMU.

Pratiksha Thaker: A visionary mind with a focus on privacy

Pratiksha has been a postdoc at CMU for one year, having previously received her Ph.D. at Stanford University. Through this fellowship, her aim is to bridge the domains of distributed systems and privacy enhancing technologies to build practical and usable systems for private data analysis and machine learning. Her goal is to augment this long-term research vision to integrate robust and trustworthy statistical methods into real, deployed computer systems. Pratiksha will continue to work with Virginia Smith, assistant professor of machine learning, and Steven Wu, assistant professor of societal computing, during her time at CMU.

Vivek Thangavelu: A dynamic problem solver with an environmental perspective

Vivek is a Ph.D. candidate at Cornell working on multi-robot construction systems in unstructured environments. Through this fellowship, he aims to address the major environmental issue of soil pollution through usage of autonomous robots with onboard spectroscopic sensors that are deployed in contaminated lands, where they react to various environmental properties to maximize coverage area. Vivek will work with Aaron Johnson, associate professor of mechanical engineering, during his time at CMU.

Stay engaged with us!

As we prepare to welcome these candidates to campus, we are reminded of the transformative power of the collective CMU community towards furthering our respective intellectual pursuits. To help facilitate the introduction to and engagement of our candidates within this community, we will be posting a series of in-depth posts covering the fellows, their thoughts, and the vision they share with their faculty hosts. Keep an eye on this space!

We wish our first cohort of CBI postdoctoral fellows the best of luck as they embark on the next steps of their academic journey together with us at CMU.