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Singh receives presidential grant for research in computer science

Assistant Professor of Computer Science Jaswinder Pal Singh was awarded the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers earlier this year.

Every fall the White House recognizes about 60 of the country's youngest Ph.D.s who are advancing their fields in science research and teaching. About four months ago, Singh visited the White House to receive a grant for his work in "parallel computing." The grant, worth $500,000, was awarded to 60 junior faculty members nationwide.


The award –which was established by President Clinton in February 1996 – is the highest honor bestowed by the government upon outstanding scientists and engineers beginning their careers, according to White House spokesman Oliver McGee.

Recipients the award are scattered throughout the country, from Yale University to the Johnson Space Center.

'Crème de la crème'

"These guys are the crème de la crème," said McGee.

"You get something like this, and you wonder if you deserve it," Singh said, who received his Ph.D. in computer science five years ago and then landed a job at the University.

Two years ago the National Science Foundation awarded Singh with a Faculty Early Career Award grant worth $150,000, which then put him in the running for the prestigious Presidential grant.

At that point, the White House's science and technology office chose the Presidential grant recipients from the nominations of 10 government agencies.


To win the grant, candidates must display a variety of talents, said Marge Cavanaugh, spokesman for the NSF.

"They are well-rounded faculty members who are not only good in research but are committed to teaching," she said.

"When you think about it, he's at the top one percent of college faculty in the country for his age," Cavanaugh said, explaining that Singh was selected from a pool of 2,000 faculty applicants.

Singh said that winning the Presidential grant was unexpected.

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"You hope to do your research and teach and do it well," he said.

Beyond computer science

Singh's work includes interdisciplinary research that extends beyond the confines of the computer science field. For example, his current projects deal with protein structure determination that demands anywhere between 100 to 1000 computers working at once to decipher, Singh said.

"The best way to think about this is that the computer is a tool, and you want to understand how to use the tool better for real problems that affect society."

Singh said "parallel computing" –the simultaneous use of multiple processors to solve a single problem –is important for honing efficiencies in fields such as cosmology. For example, using the large networks of computers, the professor can simulate galaxies to assess the evolution of stars.

"These are computationally demanding applications," he said.

Colleagues in the computer science department, such as Douglas Clark, comment that Singh is well-known for "his scrupulous performance analysis."

"J.P. has an international reputation for his research," Clark said.