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USC Viterbi doctoral student awarded Google fellowship

PhD candidate awarded Google global fellowship for work in cloud computing

by Ryan Shaw

Sumita Barahmand, PhD candidate in the Department of Computer Science at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, was awarded one of 39 Google Global PhD fellowships for her work in cloud computing.

Barahmand won the award for her work on a benchmarking tool developed to evaluate the processing capability of data stores used in social networks. Data stores contain readily accessible information, such as a member’s list of friends, and they help facilitate interactive communication among members.

“More than 40 data stores have been introduced during the past few years, and their number continues to increase each year with no more than a few benchmarks to substantiate their many claims,” Barahmand said.

Barahmand’s interest in computing started at a young age. Growing up in the historic Iranian city of Tabriz, her brother mentored and encouraged her to enter the field of computer science.

“He told me that computer science is all about analytical and abstract thinking,” Barahmand said.
“I was mostly fascinated by how search engines, social networks and email services … stored, searched and retrieved data in real time. This is how I started reading more about data storage for different applications, their structures, use and other capabilities.”

Her interest in computing led to the Sharif University of Technology in Iran, where she majored in information technology engineering. After graduation, she explored the possibility of graduate school in the United States, finally opting for USC because of its academic reputation and opportunities outside of the classroom.

USC Viterbi Professor Shahram Ghandeharizadeh, Barahmand’s faculty adviser and mentor, said she is among the best doctoral students with whom he has ever worked.

“She is smart, creative and a dedicated individual who brings projects to completion,” he said. “Sumita’s proposed framework is quite novel and opens several new research directions that benefit the systems research community.”

 Sumita Barahmand

PhD candidate Sumita Barahmand

Her future plans include studying the behavior of users in social networks to further understand the requirements of a social networking application. This research can lead to more realistic models for evaluating data stores to manage their data, which can then be used to improve user experience, performance and other features for social networks.

Google began its PhD fellowship rogram in 2009 as a way of recognizing and supporting outstanding graduate students who pursue work in computer science-related disciplines or promising research areas. The two-year fellowship includes tuition and fees, a $33,000 yearly stipend and a Google research mentor.

“The award has increased my motivation to pursue excellence in research and education and has highlighted the cloud benchmark that I have developed at USC,” Barahmand said.

Earlier this month, Barahmand received a 2014 Remarkable Women Award. The Office of Campus Activities, the USC Alumni Association and the Women’s Student Assembly co-sponsored the award, which celebrates the accomplishments and contributions of female alumni, faculty, staff and students at USC.

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