Two Computer Science Professors Win Sloan Fellowships

Xi Chen and Junfeng Yang (from left to right)
Two assistant professors of computer science at Columbia Engineering—Xi Chen and Junfeng Yang—have been named Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellows for 2012. They are among 126 early-career researchers of outstanding promise who have each been awarded a $50,000 fellowship for use in their research.
I am very excited to receive a Sloan research fellowship,” says Chen. “It is a great honor, and the funding will support both my ongoing and new research projects in algorithmic game theory and complexity theory. I am very grateful especially to my department and colleagues for their great support ever since I joined Columbia two years ago.”
Chen is interested in applying concepts and methodologies from game theory and economics to areas of computer science, to understand how selfish behavior and outside influences impact decision-making processes in the computing world. He studies algorithmic game theory, a new and rapidly growing field, and works on computational problems that arise from the game-theoretic study of the Internet, e-commerce, and other decentralized systems. His current research examines algorithmic issues related to some of the most fundamental models and solution concepts in game theory and economics. Chen, who earned his B.S. in physics/math and Ph.D. in computer science from Tsinghua University (Beijing), was a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton University and University of Southern California. He won an NSF CAREER award in 2012.
“It feels great that my research has been recognized by the Sloan Foundation and the fellowship committee,” says Yang. “I owe so many thanks to my collaborators, my colleagues at Columbia, and my brilliant students for their constant and tremendous support over the years. I am really thrilled to continue pushing the research frontiers in software systems.”
Yang’s research centers on creating effective tools to improve the reliability and security of real software systems. While in graduate school, he created an automated and comprehensive approach to detect storage system errors and then went to work at Microsoft Research, where he extended his research to distributed systems on large networks. His work led to numerous patches for the Linux Operating System and a technology transfer at Microsoft. At Columbia Engineering, he co-directs the Software Systems Lab (SSL), and is focusing on efficient and reliable multithreading, tools for the cloud, and operating systems support for reliability. Yang, who joined Columbia in 2008, won an NSF CAREER award in 2011 and an AFSOR YIP (Air Force Office of Scientific Research Young Investigator Research Program) award in 2012. He earned his B.S. from Tsinghua University and his M.S. and Ph.D. from Stanford University.
Awarded annually since 1955, Sloan Fellowships are given to early-career scientists and scholars in recognition of achievement and the potential to contribute substantially to their fields. Administered and funded by the Sloan Foundation, the Fellowships are awarded in close cooperation with the scientific community. Potential fellows must be nominated for recognition by their peers and are subsequently selected by an independent panel of senior scholars.
The $50,000 fellowships are awarded in chemistry, computer science, economics, mathematics, evolutionary and computational molecular biology, neuroscience, and physics. In 2012, in recognition of the important work done by Sloan-sponsored researchers working on the Census of Marine Life, the award program will be expanded to include fellowships in ocean sciences. For a complete list of winners, visit
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