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MPS Student Awarded Inaugural CIS Scholarship

Zheng Yao

William Lewis Brown (’87, ’88) is remembered as a dedicated Cornellian who considered his time as an undergraduate and graduate student in computer science as the best years of his life. No other computer science program – Brown was fond of saying – was better than Cornell’s.

Today, through a scholarship established by his wife, Geetha, following his untimely passing in 2014, Brown’s passion for Cornell and computer science lives on. Zheng Yao, a second-semester Master of Professional Studies (MPS) student in Information Science, was named the first recipient of the William Lewis Brown Graduate Scholarship in Computer and Information Science. The annual scholarship was established this year to recognize outstanding Computing and Information Science graduate students.

Yao said the e-mail announcement informing her of the scholarship came as a welcomed surprise during a hectic finals week. The message, she said, almost went unread.

“I had refused to check my email because it was finals week,” Yao said. “I was randomly checking them, and I found a big surprise.”

Yao received her bachelor’s degree in Information Science from Cornell last May, having graduated with honors. How she came to enroll in Information Science is a familiar story shared by many of her fellow students: Yao had several academic interests, particularly in social and computer sciences, and the interdisciplinary nature of Information Science appealed to her.

“I think of myself as an interdisciplinary person,” she said. “Information Science was what I was searching for because it covers everything I need.”

This past fall, Yao enrolled in Cornell’s MPS in Information Science program and focused her studies on Human-Computer Interaction. When Yao graduates in Spring 2016, she intends to pursue a PhD in Information Science.

“I’ve been lucky and am happy to have witnessed Information Science move from its old offices at 301 College [Avenue] to Gates Hall, and to see faculty expanding into other fields,” she said.

Yao cites retiring UGrad Coordinator Amy Sindone, Info Sci Professor and MPS Coordinator Gilly Leshed, and Professor Dan Cosley as invaluable mentors as an undergraduate – and now a graduate – student.

“On top of Zheng's outstanding academic performance,” Leshed said, “she has served as a teaching assistant and as a research assistant in a number of labs in the department. We are fortunate to have Zheng in our student body.”