Two CICS Students Awarded NSF Graduate Research Fellowships


The National Science Foundation has awarded its prestigious and highly competitive Graduate Research Fellowship to two CICS students, graduate student Su Lin Blodgett and graduating junior Aaron Weiss.

Blodgett, a second-year M.S./Ph.D. student advised by professor Brendan O'Connor, is working on improving natural language processing (NLP) tools for low-resource languages and dialects such as African-American English (AAE) to ensure that these tools aren't biased. She will be continuing an earlier project, where she showed that current tools significantly underperform on AAE relative to language that resembles Standard American English.

Weiss, a graduating junior advised by professor Arjun Guha, is working to address challenges related to programming and system configuration in large, parallel programs across distributed systems. He proposed to integrate a popular system configuration language, Puppet, with a high-level general purpose programming language with a modern type system designed for safe parallelism and based on linear and affine logic.

Weiss and Blodgett were two of only 2,000 awardees chosen from over 13,000 applicants in 2017. Bruce Spang, a master's student advised by professor Donald Towsley, also received an honorable mention.  

The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) recognizes graduate students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing researched-based master's or doctoral degrees. It provides an annual stipend of $34,000 for three years along with a $12,000 allowance for tuition and fees.  

For a complete list of NSF GRFP winners, including 9 additional UMass Amherst winners in STEM disciplines, see: