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ECE Undergrad Chosen as 2014 Rising Researcher

Walter Everett Brown

Walter Everett Brown, a computer systems engineering and computer science major in the class of 2016, has been chosen by Research Next as one of the four 2014 “Rising Researchers” at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Brown’s faculty advisor is Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Professor Maciej Ciesielski. Research Next is a UMass website and netzine which reports on “the research, scholarship, and creative activity that distinguishes UMass Amherst as a top research university.” Jessica Boakye of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department was one of the 2013 Rising Researchers. For the most part, Brown is focusing on building software that industry can use to verify hardware designs before sending them out to production.

As a first-year student, Brown wanted to get involved in research and approached engineering Professor Ciesielski for help. He was hesitant to involve such a young student in his research, but since he knew him through his first semester to be a strong student, decided to give him a shot. Ciesielski was not disappointed. Working alongside Ciesielski, Brown very quickly began to yield promising research results in the area of bit-level verification—a process computer scientists use to verify that arithmetic circuits are operating as intended.

Recognizing his talent, Assistant Dean Kathy Rubin helped to land Brown an REU on campus following his first year.

Since then, Brown’s work was presented and published at the 2013 Haifa Verification Conference, for which he was recognized as second author. Brown recently co-authored another accepted paper to be presented at the Design Automation Conference, (DAC), in San Francisco, June of 2014—one of the most prestigious conferences in the field. He is also recognized as second author on two pending papers—one to the European Design Automation and Test in Europe conference and another to the IEEE Computer Society Annual Symposium on VLSI (very large scale integration) to be held July of 2014.

Brown has been awarded a second REU through the National Science Foundation for summer 2014 and has received funding to attend the DAC conference to make the poster presentation.

“It's unusual for even graduate students to publish conference-worthy papers in their first research year, and here we have a rising sophomore producing such,” says ECE Department Head Christopher Hollot. “Moreover, Mr. Brown's initiative in approaching Professor Ciesielski and then spending his winter and spring breaks to produce meaningful research while completing his first year in college is quite a feat. It portends of an outstanding future and it is worthy of recognition as a Rising Researcher on our campus."

As the Commonwealth’s flagship public research university, UMass Amherst provides a distinctive opportunity for students to conduct hands-on research early in their academic careers. According to Vice Chancellor for Research and Engagement Mike Malone, UMass Amherst undergraduates are encouraged to take full advantage of these circumstances.

“Rising Researchers are undergraduate students with significant accomplishments from, and enthusiasm for, their work at UMass Amherst,” Malone says. “These accomplishments demonstrate not only high quality work and impact in the field of research or scholarship, but also great promise for future academic and career success.”

The other Rising Researchers at UMass Amherst were Marie Calapa, astronomy class of 2014, Amy Armstrong, history and Afro-American studies class of 2014, and John Sisay-Beckford, microbiology class of 2015. (May 2014)