USC Senior named one of the top four computer science undergraduate scholars in North America – USC Viterbi
Leena Mathur, a USC senior pursuing a triple major in computer science, cognitive science, and linguistics, recently received the 2022 Outstanding Undergraduate Research Award from the Computing Research Association (CRA). The award recognizes top college undergraduates in North America who demonstrate excellence and outstanding potential in an area of computational research.
Mathur’s research interests focus on using artificial intelligence to improve people’s lives.
“I find it really motivating to work on AI research projects that have the potential to improve human health and well-being,” Mathur said. “It is an honor to have my research work recognized alongside other inspiring undergraduate researchers,”
The CRA Outstanding Undergraduate Research Award is sponsored by Microsoft Research and Mitsubishi Electric Research Labs (MERL). Mathur is one of four recipients who received this prestigious award in 2022. As part of this award, each recipient will receive financial assistance of up to $1,500 to attend a research conference of their choice. Mathur plans to use this funding to attend a machine learning conference later this year.
At USC, Mathur worked on several interdisciplinary human-centered AI research projects. She has conducted research on social work robots that help children with autism in the USC Interaction Lab; developed algorithms to preserve endangered languages for USC’s linguistics department; and, for his senior thesis under the supervision of Professor Maja Matarić of USC Viterbi, Mathur is leading a research project aimed at creating machine learning models capable of detecting human behaviors and emotions.
“Leena is an extremely deserving recipient of this award,” said Matarić, Chan Soon-Shiong Chair and Emeritus Professor of Computer Science, Neuroscience and Pediatrics. “His extensive undergraduate research experience has deliberately focused on projects that have the potential to have real world impact. Many students do many research projects, but very few have such clarity of purpose aimed at the greater good.
In the future, Mathur said she hopes to pursue a doctorate. related to the promotion of human-centric artificial intelligence for the benefit of society.
Mathur’s research has been published in seven articles, six of which have credited her as lead or co-lead author. One of them was nominated for the Best Paper Award at the ACM 2020 International Conference on Multimodal Interaction. Mathur is a USC Presidential Scholar and a recipient of the USC Provost Undergraduate Research Fellowship. She has also received two National Research Fellowships: the Barry M. Goldwater Fellowship and the Astronaut Fellowship.
In addition to her research at USC, Mathur also conducted research at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland during the summer of 2019. There she worked on the development of machine learning approaches to detect and recognize faces in low quality videos. Last summer, she conducted research on machine perception of human emotion at the California Institute of Technology.
Mathur, who grew up in Northern California, first developed an interest in AI during his time on a high school robotics team.
“I was drawn to USC for its strong engineering curriculum and its Engineering+X philosophy that encourages students to pursue interdisciplinary interests,” Mathur said. “When I entered USC as a computer science major with an interest in AI, I quickly realized that cognitive science was a natural ‘X’ to complement my study of computer science with a deeper understanding. of cognition and behavior.
She added: “After taking a few courses in linguistics, I decided that I would also major in linguistics for a more in-depth academic training in the human capacity to acquire, interpret and produce language,”
At USC, Mathur is a member of CAIS++, the student arm of USC’s Center for AI in Society (CAIS). CAIS++ undergraduate students work in teams on project collaborations with faculty and industry clients to tackle pressing societal issues in a range of fields. She served as president of the organization for the 2020-2021 term.
She has also worked as a resident assistant at USC’s freshman residential colleges and as an undergraduate teaching assistant in the computer science department at USC Viterbi.
Outreach and mentorship are important to Mathur. She has mentored freshmen in USC’s Women in Engineering (WIE) mentorship program, and designed and led AI workshops for WIE and SC’s Women in Computing Club. In 2019, she taught an eight-week programming course for third graders at a Los Angeles public school as part of USC’s JEP program.
Mathur credits USC Viterbi’s supportive and inspiring environment, as well as the university‘s wide array of resources and programs, for helping her reach her potential.
“USC Viterbi really encourages and challenges students to pursue a holistic engineering education,” Mathur said. “My research activities have really benefited from the school’s emphasis on interdisciplinary studies and the Engineering+ philosophy, as well as the outstanding faculty support for undergraduate research.”
Posted on March 15, 2022
Last updated March 15, 2022