Brown CS Alums Alyssa Cantu And Steven Shi Receive NSF CSGrad4US Fellowships

Click the links that follow for more news about other Brown CS recipients of NSF CSGrad4US fellowships and other recent accomplishments by our alums.

Last year, Brown CS alums Alyssa Cantu and Steven Shi were awarded the NSF Computer and Information Science and Engineering Graduate (CSGrad4US) Fellowship. This honor aims to increase the number of diverse, domestic graduate students pursuing careers in the fields of computer science, computer engineering, or information science. More specifically, CSGrad4US offers an opportunity for bachelor’s degree holders who are working in industry to return to academia and pursue research-based doctoral degrees. 

Steven Shi concentrated in Computer Science and Mathematics while at Brown. His honors thesis (“An Exposition of Adversarial Examples in Neural Networks”) explored the hidden security vulnerabilities that were present in our everyday AI algorithms. After graduating, he joined SingleStore (formerly MemSQL) as a software engineer, where he worked on the Query Processing team and architected their monitoring infrastructure. Steven moved his talents to Google in 2021 as a software engineer. 

Despite his success in industry, Steven always intended to return to academia: “I’ve always wanted to be a professor; I’m deeply driven by supporting education as a great equalizer and would like to bring my talents to not only research but also mentoring and fostering the next generation of computer scientists.” 

As a First-Generation Low-Income (FGLI) student while at Brown, Steven was unable to focus on research due to having financial constraints and needing to work multiple jobs to support himself and his family. “Thanks to the support of the CSGrad4US fellowship,” he says, “I can finally return to school and conduct research without having financial concerns.” Following his first year in the fellowship program, where he received mentored support in applying to PhD programs, Steven is now a first-year Computer Science PhD student at The University of Texas at Austin, where he hopes to research grounded robotics.

Alyssa Cantu concentrated in Computational Biology while at Brown. She was first introduced to the concentration and research through the First Year Seminar, Phage Hunters. She continued conducting research while in undergrad through a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship at the Mayo Clinic. While her past research experiences were wet lab-focused during her time in undergrad, she transitioned to performing computational research as a Computational Biologist in the Life Sciences Computing Team at her former workplace, the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC), a supercomputing research facility at The University of Texas at Austin. 

It was at TACC that she became inspired to apply to the NSF CSGrad4US fellowship and return to school: “Being in a supportive environment with many colleagues who were in later stages of their research careers inspired me to want to go further with my own career. As a Latina woman in Computer Science, I used to question whether I belonged in this field. But the support from my colleagues and the CSGrad4US fellowship instilled within me the confidence that I could do so.”

While at TACC, Alyssa provided computational biology and high performance computing consulting expertise to university faculty and research groups. Following her first year in the fellowship program, where she received mentored support in applying to PhD programs, Alyssa is now a first-year Computer Science PhD student at Rice University and a recipient of The Ken Kennedy Institute Computational Science and Engineering Recruiting Fellowship, a four-year fellowship totaling a $15,000 award. Under the supervision of Dr. Vicky Yao, Alyssa is studying alternative splicing differences across Alzheimer’s Disease-associated cell types.

Steven and Alyssa join Jina Yoon, a prior Brown CS recipient of the fellowship

For more information, please contact Brown CS Communications Manager Jesse C. Polhemus.