Ashley Babjac has been named a recipient of a 2022 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation. Babjac is a computer science PhD student studying machine learning with Associate Professor Scott Emrich.
“It feels surreal to have won this award,” Babjac said. “I am the first person in my family to go for graduate education and it did not help that I started this journey during COVID lockdowns. There were many points over the last two years where I have doubted myself and thought that maybe a PhD wasn’t for me. Therefore, it is extremely validating to win this award and know that the NSF feels my research deserves to be funded.”
Babjac’s research explores applications of machine and deep learning models to various bioinformatics domains. Her project currently involves using autoencoders to reduce high-dimensional datasets and modeling DNA/mRNA sequences with the use of novel Natural Language Processing (NLP) strategies in combination with transformer networks. These types of models will lead to ground-breaking biological insights with many applications including healthcare, agriculture, and infrastructure.
“I am beyond excited to have the additional funding which will give me the freedom to research topics most interesting to me, as well as support and mentor other women in computer science,” Babjac said.
About the NSF Graduate Research Fellow Program
The purpose of the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program is to help ensure the quality, vitality, and diversity of the scientific and engineering workforce of the United States. The program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students who are pursuing full-time research-based master’s and doctoral degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) or in STEM education. The program provides three years of support over a five-year fellowship period for the graduate education of individuals who have demonstrated their potential for significant research achievements in STEM or STEM education. NSF actively encourages women, persons who are members of groups historically underrepresented in STEM, persons with disabilities, veterans, and undergraduate seniors to apply.