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Three Princeton students were among 15 recipients of this year’s Hertz Foundation Fellowship, which supports doctoral research in the applied sciences. Aman Sinha ’13, Daniel Strouse GS and Amy Ousterhout ’13 were selected from over 700 applicants to receive the fellowship, which offers $250,000 to fund research leading to a Ph.D.

Ousterhout, a computer science major from Palo Alto, Calif, is the second in her family to receive the Hertz Fellowship, following her sister Kay, who received the award in 2011. Ousterhout will pursue her doctorate in computer science at MIT next year. In her senior thesis, Ousterhout studied computer vision and developed technology capable of recognizing physical objects in visual data, such as Google Maps. Her research at MIT will explore computer networks, which she also researched as a junior.

“I think they’re interesting because they affect a ton of people. Almost everyone uses networks on a daily basis,” she said. “I’m interested in improving networks and systems so they can accommodate the changes that have occurred over the last 20 to 30 years to devices that people use.”

Ousterhout was co-president of the Princeton Women in Computer Science, an Outdoor Action leader and a computer science lab teaching assistant. She is also a former web editor for The Daily Princetonian.

Sinha said that news of the fellowship will probably “settle in a little more” once he turns in his thesis on May 2. Sinha, a mechanical and aerospace engineer from Ivyland, Penn., is examining decentralized control of network systems using a model inspired by biological and sociological models for how people interact.

As a freshman and sophomore, Sinha was involved with the Princeton Autonomous Vehicle Engineering group and became president of the Tau Beta Engineering Honor Society as a junior. Sinha is a four-year Whitman resident and is involved with intramural soccer as well as peer tutoring for Whitman.

After graduating from the University, Sinha will pursue a master’s of philosophy in engineering at the University of Cambridge for a year on a Churchill Scholarship. He will specialize in the field of information engineering, which he explained deals with how we “understand, manipulate and learn from large data sets.”

Sinha said he will use the Hertz fellowship post-Cambridge by pursuing a Ph.D. in electrical engineering at Stanford University. “It was a really tough choice,” Sinha noted on choosing where to go for his Ph.D. studies. “I thought Stanford was the best fit in terms of the research program and the general environment.”

Sinha, who said he would like to merge academic research with applied possibilities in the tech industry, said he views the merging of academia with industry as natural.

“You’re not going to just be doing stuff in a darkroom staring at books. All of these problems that people are looking at are motivated by things people actually care about,“ he noted.

Strouse, a first-year Ph.D candidate in physics from Newark, Del., said he received an email last week that notified him of his selection.

“I couldn’t breathe. I just started jumping up and down,” he said.  

Before coming to Princeton, Strouse studied physics as an undergraduate at the University of Southern California and received his master’s degree from the University of Cambridge on a Churchill Scholarship.

He said that the application process for the Hertz Fellowship was very unique in its two-round interview component in addition to required essays and letters of recommendation.

“They want to see how you think on the fly, so they’ll often give you tricky puzzle problems that you may not solve on your own necessarily right away. They want to watch you think,“ Strouse said. “I actually found the process to be a lot of fun.”

Strouse plans to study the biological processes that occur in the brain when people make predictions and inferences. He said he hopes to develop a set of laws or core principles to create a simple explanation of biology.

“The more we learn about biological systems and, in particular the brain, the better we’ll be at fighting different kinds of diseases or learning from biology and designing our own machines,” he said.

In addition to the monetary support of $250,000 per fellow, the fellowship also has a strong alumni network.

“The Hertz foundation does a great job getting current and past fellows together to discuss scientific and engineering issues,” Strouse said. “I’m really looking forward to meeting a lot of great scientists and engineers across many different disciplines and seeing what they’re doing. I think it’ll be a lot of fun in that regard as well.”

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