2023 Undergraduate Awards

2023 Duke Undergrads
Congratulations to all recipients of 2023 undergraduate student awards.

Alex Vasilos Memorial Award

Awarded to a graduating senior who completes an outstanding research project whose results should be published or of publishable quality with the intent to publish. In addition, this senior should have done excellent work in all computer science courses with a recognized joy of and appreciation for computer science as a discipline of study. Three students received this award.

  • William Ruixian He
    For superior research problem solving skills in multiple areas including connectivity augmentation and symmetric formulas for word problems.
  • Nianli Peng
    For computational and technical sophistication in research on multi-objective reinforcement learning with non-linear preferences motivated by fairness.
  • Zeyu Shen
    For outstanding research involving computational economics and machine learning on topics related to algorithm design concerned with fairness, diversity and privacy constraints.
  • Rui Xin
    For innovative research in interpretable machine learning, natural language processing and in security and privacy of computing.
  • Xingyu Zhu
    For outstanding research in edge-of-stability deep neural networks problems, including observations that training dynamics on an example has interesting bifurcating behavior.

Rebecca DeNardis Memorial Award

Awarded to a graduating senior major who has contributed significantly to maintaining and building excellence in the undergraduate program. The winner should have gone beyond what is expected and excelled in both support of the program and in coursework. Five students received this award.

  • Arushi Bhatia
    For leadership and outstanding contributions as an undergraduate teaching assistant and front-end Head UTA for CompSci 201, including first-contact for the team of UTAs, running weekly UTA meetings, and leadership on culture and being a professional among the UTA team.
  • Dominique Danielle Buford
    For excellence in leadership and creativity in supporting the Alliance for Identity-Inclusive Computing Education, including the development of videos to help students, faculty and others understand topics related to identity in CS education.
  • Aaric Han
    For stellar leadership and contributions as a Head UTA for both CompSci 210 and CompSci 250, including the development of exam practice materials and TA training materials, and excellence in explaining course concepts.
  • Joon Young Lee
    For incredible leadership in multiple courses as a TA for CompSci 516 and a head UTA in CompSci 316, going above and beyond in contributing to all aspects of the course from question preparation to autograders.
  • Caleb Andrew Watson
    For excellence and leadership in multiple courses as a UTA, for CompSci 260 three times and for CompSci 230, and for research in computational modeling of noncanonical amino acids to aid protein design.

Undergraduate Senior Thesis Projects 

Graduation with Distinction is awarded to students who complete a substantial project that consists of at least one year’s work, including an independent study under the guidance of a faculty member. The project represents a significant intellectual endeavor and requires a presentation made to a committee of three faculty members.

Graduation with Highest Distinction

  • Nianli Peng, Advisor: Brandon Fain – “Algorithms for Optimizing Fair Welfare Functions in Multi-objective Reinforcement Learning with Provable Guarantees”
  • Dev Seth, Advisor: Bhuwan Dhingra – “Characterizing the Legibility of Visual Text Perturbations for Adversarial Attacks in Natural Language Processing”
  • Zeyu Shen, Advisor: Kamesh Munagala – “Classification with Partially Private Features”
  • Rui Xin, Advisor: Cynthia Rudin – “The Whole Rashomon Set of Sparse Decision Trees”
  • Xingyu Zhu, Advisor: Rong Ge – “Understanding Edge-of-Stability Training Dynamics with a Minimalist Example”

Graduation with High Distinction

  • Anni Chen, Advisor: Bhuwan Dhingra – “Understanding the Role of Context in Propaganda Method Detection”
  • Caleb Watson, Advisor: Bruce Donald – “Incorporation of Non-proteinogenic Amino Acids (ncAAs) into Existing OSPREY Protein Redesign Framework”

Graduation with Distinction

  • Sara Mehta, Advisor: Kristin Stephens-Martinez – “Factors that Influence Attitudes Toward Group Work in CS Classrooms”
  • Rhea Tejwani, Advisor: Kristin Stephens-Martinez – “Understanding the Efficacy of Office Hours in CS1”
  • Hao Xu, Advisor: Kristin Stephens-Martinez – “Understanding the Association between Student Behavior on Formative Assessments and Performance on Summative Assessments”
  • Ruixin Zhang, Advisor: Stephen Lisberger – “Implications of Input Neurons’ Spike Timing Synchrony for Neural Coding”


Duke Computer Science students who graduated with undergraduate awards and distinction: