Q&A: Graduate student awarded Department of Energy Fellowship

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Noah Nelson, News Contributor

A graduate student here at Oregon State University was recently awarded a fellowship from the United States Department of Energy. Funded by the DOE’s office of Science and the National Nuclear Security Administration, the recipient of the fellowship, Lawrence Roy, will have his studies towards a doctoral degree in computer graphics paid for in full for up to four years.  

The fellowship has been awarded to Roy on the basis that his education and research in computer science could help “solve complex science and engineering problems of national importance,” as stated by the official release from the DOE. 

Roy decided to answer a few questions for The Daily Barometer to help people better understand how he received this fellowship.

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Where did you spend your undergraduate years and what did you study? 

I was admitted to the Ph.D program in Computer Science here at Oregon State University without an undergraduate degree. I know this is very unusual, but by the time I was applying for college, I had already been taking courses in Computer Science and Math at OSU and online for several years, and had co-authored several publications. 

What inspired you to pursue this path? 

During the summer of 2015, I worked as an intern with Professor Eugene Zhang, who is now my advisor, sponsored through Apprenticeships in Science and Engineering. At the end of that summer, Professor Zhang invited me to continue working with his team of grad students and I became a co-author on several papers. I have always liked math and computer science, and the chance to do original research with Professor Zhang was what really convinced me to follow this path. Fortunately, when I applied, the graduate school was willing to grant a special exemption to allow me to enter the Ph.D program.

What are the qualifications for the fellowship you received, and how did you end up receiving it?

The Department of Energy awards the Computational Science Graduate Fellowship to about 25 PhD students every year, selecting either a first-year graduate student or a senior undergraduate who will be a PhD student the coming fall. The selection committee looks for an exceptionally strong background in mathematics, computer science, a scientific or engineering field and research in an area related to high-performance computing (“supercomputers”, many of which are run by the DOE). Because I had entered graduate school without an undergraduate degree, I wasn’t sure if I had a chance, but I guess it was my relatively strong research background, combined with recommendations from Professors Mike Bailey, Eugene Zhang and Enrique Thomann that helped.

It is good news for OSU that two CSGF fellows came from here this year. Besides myself, Jessie Rodriguez, who graduated from OSU in June with honors in three majors — mathematics, physics, and nuclear engineering — was selected while a senior, and is now a first-year Ph.D student in physics at Stanford. As far as I can tell, no OSU student has previously won a CSGF fellowship, so two at once is a pretty big deal.

How did you feel when you learned you received this fellowship?

Because I really didn’t think I had much of a chance, I was very surprised and honored to be selected. I wasn’t worried about not getting funding from my advisor, but it is nice to be able to bring in funding myself.

What do you plan to do after

your doctoral program? 

I really enjoy doing research that has something of a theoretical bent, and hope to continue to work in this area, either as an academic at a university, in one of the DOE National Laboratories, in industry or a combination of the three. I don’t currently have more definite plans.