Gates Hall houses the Computer Science and Information Science departments at Cornell.

Michael Wenye Li / Sun Photography Editor

Gates Hall houses the Computer Science and Information Science departments at Cornell.

February 7, 2020

Five Cornell Ph.D. Students Named Facebook Fellows

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Correction appended.

From reducing domestic violence to uplifting rural Bangladeshis, five Cornellians are using computer science and engineering to confront critical problems, being selected to the Facebook Fellowship Program in the process.

The Facebook Fellowship Program awards Ph.D. candidates conducting research within the computer science and engineering world with two years’ tuition, a $42,000 stipend and an invitation to the social media company’s headquarters for a summit.

Diana Freed grad, Sharifa Sultana grad, Alane Suhr grad, Nirvan Tyagi grag and Briana Vecchione grad were among the 36 Ph.D. candidates chosen from over 1,800 applicants from 22 universities across the world.

This is the ninth class of fellows to be accepted to this program, which has in total has advanced the research of over 108 Ph.D. students. To apply, candidates had to choose from a list of research areas that aligned most closely with their current work.

Freed, who studies computer and information science, currently works for the Intimate Partner Violence Tech Research Group — which works with the New York City Mayor’s Office to end domestic and gender-based violence. In that role, she focuses on how digital technologies can be used to reduce cases of domestic violence, and was accepted to the fellowship’s well-being and safety research section.

“My research is important to me because this work allows us to directly impact and improve the lives of survivors by detecting and mitigating technology mediated abuse,” Freed wrote in an email to The Sun.

Sultana applies her background in information science to a different field, studying how rural Bangladeshis use information and communication technologies and evaluates their effects on social development.

“My work is critical computing and my target population is the low-income and low-literate people in the rural parts of a developing country-Bangladesh,” Sultana, who is currently creating social media tools to be used in rural Bangladesh, told The Sun in an email. “I am happy that Facebook appreciates my work and acknowledges my contribution.”

For Sultana, research is more than academic — she sees it as a personal and social responsibility to the people of Bangladesh.

“[Rural Bangladeshis are] often marginalized and their needs are often underrepresented in the scientific and computational scholarly discourses,” Sultana said. “My work not only serves my academic purpose, but I also feel like this is part of my social responsibilities.”

Suhr, a computer science Ph.D. candidate, was ecstatic about her selection to the fellowship.

“I’m looking forward to meeting a variety of researchers and learning about what other people are working on,” Suhr said. “It seems like the fellows are working on a wide range of topics and I’m excited to learn more about different areas from researchers around the world.”

Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated which mayor’s office Diana Freed grad works with on domestic and gender-based violence issues. Freed works with New York City mayor’s office, not the Ithaca mayor’s office.