QoLT Students Win Prestigious Borg Scholarships-Quality of Life Technology Center - Carnegie Mellon University

Monday, July 9, 2012

QoLT Students Win Prestigious Borg Scholarships

(top) Ruta Desai; Anca Dragan; (bottom) Marynel Vazquez; Shree Rao
(top) Ruta Desai; Anca Dragan; (bottom) Marynel Vazquez; Shree Rao

Four QoLT students were among the women named by Google as Anita Borg Memorial Scholars and finalists.  Ruta Desai (CMU-RI) and Anca Dragan (CMU-RI) won scholarships; while Marynel Josefina Vazquez Ugarte (CMU-RI) and Shree Lakshmi Rao (CMU-CFA, Design) were also listed as finalists.


The Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship honors the memory of Dr. Anita Borg, who devoted her life to encouraging the presence of women in computing and founded the Institute for Women in Technology in 1997. Anita passed away in 2003, and the Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship was created in 2004 to honor her memory. Anita’s legacy lives on today through this scholarship and the organization she created, which has since been re-named the Anita Borg Institute for Women in Technology.


The scholarship is highly competitive.  Seventy women were named to the 2013 Borg scholars class with an additional 79 named as finalists.  This scholarship round was open to universities in the United States, Canada, Europe, the Middle East or Africa.


Ruta Desai is a Master's student in Robotics; her research focus is on legged robotics. She works with Professors Chris Atkeson and Hartmut Geyer in QoLT's Mobility and Manipulation (MOMAT) Research Thrust on developing controls for automated balance recovery in the presence of large disturbances like trips and pushes. In her research, Desai seeks to understand the neuromuscular control of the lower limbs in human locomotion in order to design better control for artificial legs and humanoids.


Anca Dragan is a PhD student in Robotics where she is focused on enabling robots to work with and around people.  She works with Sidd Srinivasa in the Personal Robotics Lab as a key contributor to the HERB and QoLTbot Interaction projects.  Dragan's work emphasizes a combination of optimal control, machine learning, and psychology techniques to shift the emphasis in personal robots away from a focus on feasibility only, and towards planning optimal and repeatable motion that is more suitable for human interactions -  particularly in the home environment.


Both Marynel Vazquez Ugarte and Shree Rao work with Aaron Steinfeld on associated projects in the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center for Accessible Public Transportation (RERC-APT).


As Borg scholars, the students attend an annual Google Scholars Retreat in Mountain View, CA.  The event features the opportunity to attend tech talks on Google products, network with other scholars and participate in social activities.


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By: Kristen Sabol, ksabol@cs.cmu.edu, 412-268-3795