Carnegie Mellon University

Portrait of Fei Fang

February 17, 2022

Fang Receives 2022 Sloan Research Fellowships

By Aaron Aupperlee

Fei Fang and Pravesh Kothari, both assistant professors in Carnegie Mellon University's School of Computer Science, will receive 2022 Sloan Research Fellowships 

The fellowship, awarded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, is considered one of the top awards for young researchers. The two-year fellowship provides $75,000 to early-career researchers in recognition of distinguished performance and a unique potential to make substantial contributions to their field.

"Today's Sloan Research Fellows represent the scientific leaders of tomorrow," said Adam F. Falk, president of the Sloan Foundation. "As formidable young scholars, they are already shaping the research agenda within their respective fields — and their trailblazing won't end here."

The 2022 fellowship was awarded to 118 researchers from 51 institutions across the United States and Canada. Carl Rodriguez, an assistant professor of astrophysics and cosmology in the Mellon College of Science's Department of Physics, also received a fellowship.

Fang, the Leonardo Assistant Professor in the Institute for Software Research, studies the integration of machine learning with game theory to tackle real-world problems. Her work has been used by the U.S. Coast Guard to protect the Staten Island Ferry; led to the development of the Protection Assistant for Wildlife Security (PAWS), a tool that assists with antipoaching efforts; and was recently used to address food security in collaboration with the Pittsburgh-based nonprofit 412 Food Rescue.

Jim Herbsleb, director of ISR and Fang's nominator for the fellowship, said that through integrating machine learning and game theory, her work has led to a better understanding of strategic interactions in complex environments.

"Fang's work reflects a rare combination of significant theoretical advances and high-impact practical applications," Herbsleb said. "She has devoted herself to making a real-world impact by transforming theory into practice via collaborations and driving positive societal changes in diverse areas such as public safety, environmental sustainability and food security."

Kothari works broadly in the field of theoretical computer science and its interactions with allied areas such as high-dimensional probability and statistical estimation. His research develops a new approach, called the "proofs-to-algorithms" paradigm, for designing algorithms for statistical estimation problems arising in areas such as machine learning and cryptography.

Kothari's approach both uses and builds new connections between algorithm design and proof complexity — the study of the complexity of mathematical proofs themselves. His recent work has led to progress on long-standing open questions such as finding an algorithm to robustly learn a mixture of arbitrary Gaussians and proving Feige's conjecture in combinatorics on the length of the smallest cycle in hypergraphs.

"Kothari is a prolific researcher doing influential and deep work at the intersection of algorithms, statistics, machine learning and complexity theory," said Computer Science Department Professor Ryan O'Donnell, who nominated Kothari. "The 'proofs to algorithms' paradigm he is developing has greatly enriched our understanding of optimization under stochastic inputs."

Read more about the fellowship and the fellows joining Fang and Kothari on the Sloan Foundation's website.