Karlekar, Guo recognized by CRA for excellence in undergraduate research

Han Guo and Sweta Karlekar meet with their advisor Mohit Bansal
Han Guo (left) and Sweta Karlekar (right) meet with Dr. Mohit Bansal in Brooks Building

Each year, the Computing Research Association (CRA) recognizes undergraduate students at North American Universities who show outstanding potential in an area of computing research. This year, two UNC Computer Science students were honored by the CRA with 2020 Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Awards. Sweta Karlekar and Han Guo were recognized as Runner-up and Finalist, respectively.

Karlekar’s research has been focused in the areas of NLP and ML. Her first project detected signs of Alzheimer’s Disease through identifying linguistic characteristics in patient interviews. Using visualization techniques, in her second project Karlekar examined linguistic commonalities to support a data-driven approach in the treatment of victims of domestic abuse.

Karlekar reflected fondly upon her undergraduate research experiences, “research gave me the chance to prove myself. The freedom for creativity and mobility. Research allowed me to build my next steps brick by brick, and through research I was provided the foundation I needed to grow professionally.”

Guo’s research has been sequential, building on skills each next step. His first project focused on automated image captioning, followed by a project that applied automated text summarization of news articles. Today, Guo’s research lies at the intersection of machine learning and NLP, and he’s interested in building robust NLP systems that are interpretable. Guo says his commitment to becoming an expert in AI has reinforced his desire to continue research moving forward.

“I want to stay in front of technology, I enjoy learning and understanding how things work and am always considering how areas could be integrated together. Through research, you are shaping the future of technology.”

Karlekar and Guo, who will graduate in May, expressed sincere gratitude for the mentorship of assistant professor Mohit Bansal, director of the UNC Natural Language Processing (NLP) group, where they completed their research.

Bansal, who nominated the students for this award, said, “I am very proud of Sweta and Han for this prestigious achievement. They have been an important and beloved part of our UNC-NLP lab for several years and have pursued exciting, advanced projects with real-world impact. These students are great examples of the extremely strong undergraduate researchers we have here at UNC.”

The CRA Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Award has been announced annually since 1995. Awardees are nominated by the chair of the department and require a faculty recommendation. Students submit a research summary, explaining the significance of their research project(s) to the field and/or society, their specific contributions, and challenges they addressed. Nominees have often been involved in multiple projects as undergraduates, authored papers, and presented at major conferences. Past awardees have continued their impact, making significant contributions to industry, research, and academia.

For the full list of 2020 awardees and their accomplishments, visit the CRA website.

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