October 30, 2020

6 FLIP PhD Students Win Google-CMD-IT Dissertation Fellowship Award

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Top Row Left to Right: Alexander Moreno (Georgia Institute of Technology), Amber Solomon (Georgia Institute of Technology), Michael Rivera (Carnegie Mellon University) Bottom Row Left to Right: Felix Gonda (Harvard University), Gabriel Fierro (University of California, Berkeley), Wing Lam (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)

From 2018 to 2019, the number of students from underrepresented groups who completed a Ph.D in computer science decreased by 13 percent. To address the current disparities, the Center for Minorities and People with Disabilities IT (CMD-IT) is working with Google Research to increase the diversity of Ph.D. graduates in the industry. Computer science research has broad implications for billions of people—which is why it’s so important that researchers doing this work represent the experiences, perspectives and concerns of people all around the world. The initiative falls under CMD-IT’s program entitled the “Future Leadership in Computing (FLIP) Alliance” which was specifically established to increase diversity in the professoriate in computing at research universities as a way to achieve greater diversity across the field.

Last year, together with Google Research, CMD-IT FLIP Alliance, established a competitive dissertation awards program. Doctoral students from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds at the FLIP institutions were invited to apply for the awards to be used for the last year of the completion of the dissertation requirements.

6 CMD-IT FLIP Fellows received this award in the amount of $25,000 for their research in computer science and other related fields. Here’s what they’ve shared about themselves, their aspirations and dreams for the future.

Alexander Moreno – Georgia Institute of Technology: I plan to pursue a postdoc in academia or industry. I would like to continue to focus on methodology and theory for healthcare applications.

Amber Solomon – Georgia Institute of Technology: I first plan to work as a research scientist creating interventions that promote equity and inclusivity in computer science classrooms. Eventually, I plan to work on policy related to computer science education.

Felix Gonda – Harvard University: I plan to pursue opportunities in an industry where I can apply my research and computing skills to solve real-world problems that have a direct impact on the quality of life of citizens, such as in health care, assistive robots, and neuroscience.  

Michael Rivera – Carnegie Mellon University: I plan to pursue a postdoctoral position followed by a position as a university professor.

Gabriel Fierro – University of California, Berkeley: I plan to pursue a faculty position in a computer science department where I am able to pursue non-traditional and cross-disciplinary approaches to long-standing problems in sustainability and the built environment. 

Wing Lam – University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: I will pursue a research position in academia or industry labs.  With my next position, I hope to better increase the participation of those with underrepresented backgrounds, especially those with disabilities, in STEM-related fields.

Learn more about our FLIP program at