Two UMD Students Named Top Undergraduate Computer Science Researchers

George Li and Aditya Ranjan receive recognition from the Computing Research Association for their contributions to computing research.
Descriptive image for Two UMD Students Named Top Undergraduate Computer Science Researchers

University of Maryland senior computer science and mathematics double major George Zhaoqi Li received a 2023-2024 Computing Research Association (CRA) Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Award. This prestigious award, which has only four awardees, recognizes Li's exceptional contributions to the field of computer science. In addition to Li, Aditya Ranjan (B.S. ’23, computer science) received an honorable mention award.  

The CRA Undergraduate Researcher Award, sponsored this year by Mitsubishi Electric Research Labs (MERL), honors undergraduate students in North American colleges and universities who demonstrate outstanding research potential in computing. Beyond academic excellence and service involvement, the primary focus of the award is research innovation and impact. The award includes a financial grant of up to $1,500, enabling awardees to attend a research conference, further enriching their academic and professional development.

George Zhaoqi Li 

Li’s research focuses on differential privacy in algorithm design and addresses how algorithms can be structured to protect individual data privacy. This work has various applications, including clustering problems, vaccine distribution and matching/allocation challenges.

“The main real-world concern that my research focuses on is addressing privacy concerns in algorithms, statistics and machine learning,” Li said. “This has become increasingly important in recent years, especially with differential privacy in the 2020 U.S. census. As a concrete example, my research has studied better contact tracing algorithms which guarantee differential privacy, an important question during the pandemic.”

At the heart of Li's success lies his collaboration with a diverse team of mentors and researchers. Since his freshman year, Li worked with Distinguished University Professor of Computer Science Aravind Srinivasan.

“It's exciting to be recognized for the work my mentors and I have put in during the past few years,” Li said. “UMD, and especially my advisor Aravind Srinivasan, has been vital in my nascent research career. He was willing to take me on as a first-year undergraduate and has patiently taught me about many aspects of research.”

Srinivasan expressed confidence in the future impact of Li's research, describing him as an "enthusiastic and brilliant researcher." Srinivasan added that it had been an "ardent pleasure" to collaborate with him.

Li’s academic network extends to other institutions, involving collaborations with Laxman Dhulipala at UMD, Anil Vullikanti at the University of Virginia, Jalaj Upadhyay and Zihan Tan at Rutgers University, Ariel Schvartzman at Google Research and Quanquan Liu at Yale University.

Li plans to pursue a doctoral degree in computer science after he graduates from UMD.

"I want to continue studying the area of differential privacy,” Li expressed. “In particular, I want to explore the relationship between privacy and dynamic graph algorithms, using ideas from each area to give improved algorithms in the other.”

Aditya Ranjan

Ranjan, who graduated in December 2023 and is pursuing his master's degree in computer science at UMD, conducted his research with Associate Professor of Computer Science Abhinav Bhatele.

“It feels very fulfilling to receive an honorable mention for this award, and it motivates me to continue working on interesting and impactful research,” Ranjan said. “I also appreciate Professor Bhatele for allowing me to work in his lab and learn so much.”

Most of Ranjan’s undergraduate research focused on creating and developing Pipit, an open-source Python library. This performance analysis tool enables the high-performance computing community to read large parallel execution traces in various formats. Using different API functions allows for the extraction of relevant insights through data analytics. 

"Aditya has been conducting research in the Parallel Software and Systems Group since his high school years and has been an extremely productive researcher," Bhatele said. "I am extremely pleased his efforts and research have been recognized by the CRA with an Honorable Mention for the 2023-2024 Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Award. I am also excited to share he is continuing in our group as a master's student."

In his graduate studies, Ranjan plans to get more involved with parallel deep learning and performance analysis for GPUs.

“One such project I have started to get familiar with is exploring scalability in the context of AxoNN, which is a framework developed within the lab for distributed training of deep neural networks,” Ranjan said.

Story by Samuel Malede Zewdu, CS Communications 


The Department welcomes comments, suggestions and corrections.  Send email to editor [-at-] cs [dot] umd [dot] edu.