Saria '04 Wins Full-Tuition Scholarship from Microsoft
Photo: Ben Barnhart
Saria '04 (right) and Jessica Littman '02 with
robot Susan B.
Suchi Saria '04 is
glad she met Hank and Minerva at Mount Holyoke last semester.
The two robots, which Saria assembled with computer science Professor
Paul Dobosh, took the sophomore physics and computer science major
closer to fulfilling her dream of building a robot with both physical
and cognitive functions, such as reason, perception, and language
understanding. Saria took another step toward that goal this month,
winning a Microsoft Corporation scholarship that will cover tuition
at MHC during 20022003. Microsoft awards full and partial
scholarships to sophomores and juniors demonstrating a passion
for technology at a variety of colleges around the United States.
For the 2002-2003 academic year, it awarded full-tuition scholarships
A native of India,
Saria first became interested in computers and robots during her
last two years of high school, when she participated in a robotics
club and focused her studies on science and technology. She continues
to pursue technology at Mount Holyoke, both through the classes
required for her majors and through cocurricular robotics research
with Dobosh and computer science department chair Claude L. Fennema,
associate professor of computer science. "Microsoft has very
high standards for these awards, which are designed to help students
in technical areas get involved in computer science, a field that
lacks women," said Fennema. "Suchi is an enthusiastic
and smart woman who certainly deserves this honor."
During her first year
and summer at Mount Holyoke, Saria worked with Fennema on computer
vision research, creating software that would enable a robot to
navigate "intelligently" (plot her own path using information
she gathers en route). This fall, through her work on Hank and
Minerva, Saria tackled the hardware, or physical aspects, of robotics.
Together, hardware and software will eventually create Susan C.,
a complex robot that will succeed Susan B., a two-foot-tall robot
created in 1990 as a platform for research into artificial intelligence.
As an intern with
IBM in California this summer, Saria will shift her research toward
human- computer interaction, or making computers able to adapt
to the individual habits and preferences of their users. She hopes
that all these experiences will eventually lead her to a doctoral
degree in robotics at Stanford or Carnegie Mellon University.