Facebook announced it would start a Ph.D. fellowship program — and yesterday the company announced who these first fellows would be during the 2010-11 school year, as chosen from hundreds of applications. Finalists appear to specialize in areas that Facebook has been either addressing or planning to address.
Here they are, in alphabetical order:
Vinayak Borkar focuses on Cloud Computing and is currently studying at the University of California at Irvine. Specifically, he researches “ways to improve distributed computing platforms for data analysis,” which is a key part of how Facebook operates. In addition to his academic pursuits, Borkar previously worked at several software companies and co-founded Black Titan Software in San Jose, California.
Parmit Chilana studies social computing at the University of Washington in Seattle, specifically researching human-computer interaction. She’s hoping to develop her ideas for “crowdsourcing help for web applications in a real-world setting” while at Facebook. Parmit has also studied library and information science and computer science.
Leslie John studies behavioral economics at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. Her area of research encompasses “new dimensions of privacy and how people decide what information to disclose” and hopes that the Facebook fellowship will help her to “extend her research to the context of social networking.”
Mladen Kolar is also studying at Carnegie Mellon, though his focus is machine learning, specifically, “the structure of networks and how they change and evolve over time.” He hopes to “provide insight into complex patterns underlying high-dimension and noisy data,” at Facebook. Kolar has previously studied electrical engineering and computing.
Yaron Singer studies Internet economics at the University of California at Berkeley focusing on algorithmic game theory and mechanism design. Singer previously founded an advertising network for social media, Bidwave, and during his Facebook tenure plans to research “how to build a platform where people view ads as beneficial recommendations.” He preiously studied mathematics and computer science.
In addition to the prestige of working with Facebook for a year, each of the five fellows will receive a $30,00 stipend, plus conference travel and other perks. Twenty-two other finalists received $500 from Facebook as well.
In the blog post announcing the winners, Facebook Director of Engineering Greg Badros wrote that Facebook started the fellowship program “because the academic community plays a central role in addressing many of our most challenging research questions on topics ranging from cloud and social computing to Internet economics and machine learning.”
The end goal for Facebook, Badros wrote, is for the fellows to help the company develop solutions directly applicable to the social web and Facebook.