Sponsor: Microsoft Research
Selection Committee: Chris Stone (Chair, HMC); Amy Czismar Dalal (Carleton College); Miguel Labrador (University of South Florida); Jennifer Welch (Texas A&M); Thad Starner (Georgia Tech); and Maria Gini (University of Minnesota).
Vera Khovanskaya – Female Awardee
Senior at Cornell University
Vera Khovanskaya is a Senior at Cornell University in the Department of Information Science. As an undergraduate researcher in Cornell’s Interaction Design Lab, Vera brings a synthesis of computer science and social science skills to her projects. Vera’s research combines critical reflection on issues in the collection and processing of data for personal informatics with the design of technologies. She has assisted with the development of a mobile phone application to improve health behaviors and health awareness, and a mobile phone application that generates music in response to a user’s physical movements in order to foster creative expression. Vera also has also worked as a teaching assistant, and helped develop an introductory programming course for non-majors.
Matthew Bryan – Male Awardee
Senior at University of Washington
Matthew Bryan is a Senior at the University of Washington majoring in Computer Science. Matthew’s research is highly multidisciplinary – spanning the fields of robotics to brain-computer interfacing. Matthew’s state-of-the-art research helps make brain-computer interfacing more adaptive to the ongoing needs of users, who are often paralyzed or disabled. As an undergraduate research assistant, Matt took on the challenging problem of developing a brain-computer interface for controlling an assistive humanoid robot using brain signals. Matthew’s novel approach allows the user to teach the robot new commands on the fly by training the robot to perform new behaviors using brain signals. In addition to formulating research hypotheses, developing and implementing algorithms, and presenting research results at international conferences, Matthew also mentors at-risk youth.
Zhengyuan Zhou – Male Awardee
Bachelor of Science at University of California,
Berkeley Zhengyuan recently received his Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and a Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics from the University of California, Berkeley. Zhengyuan has an exemplary record of research results, and a drive to work on deep and meaningful problems in computer science. He has co-authored several papers building on open-loop frameworks for differential games, with an emphasis on control and optimization. In addition to theory and algorithm design, Zhengyuan is a skilled programmer. Zhengyuan also gained experience as an undergraduate student instructor and tutor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering and worked on problems in Algebra with researchers in the Mathematics Department.
Mattea Welch – Female Runner-Up
Senior at Queen’s University in Ontario
Mattea Welch is a Senior at Queen’s University in Ontario, majoring in Computer Science with a specialization in Biomedical Computing. Mattea is passionate about using computing and logic to solve real life problems, and her projects are multidisciplinary – involving computer scientists and clinicians. She has organized research in the Laboratory for Percutaneous Surgery specializing in computer-assisted surgery. She is also a Research Assistant and Vice-President of the Queen’s Association for Technology in Medicine and Biology, which provides a platform to discuss and explore the changing role that technology plays in medicine and biology. It promotes the idea that traditionally separate fields of technology, medicine and biology have much to gain through a collaborative and multidisciplinary approach to problem solving.
Frank Ong – Male Runner-Up
Senior at University of California, Berkeley
Frank Ong is a Senior at the University of California, Berkeley, majoring in Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences. As a Research Assistant, Frank investigated a novel way of denoising blood flow data using divergence-free wavelet transform. During the project, he had the opportunity to collaborate with radiologists in Stanford University, which motivated him to allow complete user control on the denoising process, because algorithms may cover up some details that radiologists want to see.
Finalists and Honorable Mentions
Logan McNamara, Lehigh University Marjori Pomarole, University of California, San Diego Alexandra Schofield, Harvey Mudd College
Daniel Grier, University of South Carolina
Eric Moult, Queen’s University
Sameh Saleh, George Mason University
Rohan Sharma, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Honorable Mentions (Female)
Colleen Alkalay-Houlihan, McGill University
Andreea Bancila, Mount Holyoke College
Willa Chen, Princeton University
Yudi Fu, Brown University
Rachel Gordon, University of Massachusetts,
Amherst Grace Muzny, University of Washington
Amy Pavel, University of California, Berkeley
Melissa Queen, Dartmouth College
Elissa Redmiles, University of Maryland, College Park
Stephanie Rogers, University of California, Berkeley
Kaitlin Stouffer, Princeton University
Megan Torkildson, University of Washington
Rachel Ulgado, University of California, Irvine
Rachel Wesley, University of Rochester
Honorable Mentions (Male)
Gregory Allan, Queen’s University
Gregory Bodwin, Tufts University
Kevin Brandstatter, Illinois Institute of Technology
Jonathan Burket, University of Virginia
Nicholas Carboni, Lafayette College
Kevin Clark, University of Washington
Nihit Desai, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Jesse Domack, Florida International University
Adam Fairfield, Arizona State University
John Fallon, University of Massachusetts, Lowell
Clement Gehring, McGill University
William Hamilton, McGill University
John Judnich, Santa Clara University
Jason Koenig, Carnegie Mellon University
Alan Kuntz, University of New Mexico
Young Hyun (Albert) Kwon, University of Pennsylvania
Avi Levy, University of Texas, Dallas Jack Ma,
Harvey Mudd College
Kevin Mantel, Princeton University
Douglas McErlean, Brown University
Christopher Miller, University of Rochester
Gal Oshri, Princeton University
Tong Pham, Lafayette College
Steven Reisman, Loyola University, Chicago
Mark Rich, New York University
Cesar Rodriguez, Texas A&M University
Russell Seidel, Clarkson University
Michael Shaffer, Loyola University, Chicago
Max Smiley, Tufts University
Daniel Stubbs, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Timothy Sun, Columbia University
Kui Tang, Columbia University
Kesler Tanner, Brigham Young University
Jesse Thomason, University of Pittsburgh
Jeffery Thompson, University of Southern Maine
David Turner, Texas A&M University
Joshua Wang, Stanford University
Matthew Weber, University of Virginia
James Wilcox, Williams College
Alan Wright, University of Central Florida
Jason Zhao, Cornell University
Gini Koch writes the fast, fresh and funny Alien/Katherine “Kitty” Katt series for DAW Books, the Necropolis Enforcement Files series, and the Martian Alliance Chronicles series for Musa Publishing. Alien in the House, Book 7 in her long-running Alien series, won the RT Book Reviews Reviewer’s Choice Award as the Best Futuristic Romance of 2013. Alien Collective, Book 9, released in May, and Universal Alien in December. As G.J. Koch, she writes the Alexander Outland series, and she’s made the most of multiple personality disorder by writing under a variety of other pen names as well, including Anita Ensal, Jemma Chase, A.E. Stanton, and J.C. Koch. Currently, Gini has stories featured in the Unidentified Funny Objects 3, Clockwork Universe: Steampunk vs. Aliens, and Two Hundred and Twenty-One Baker Streets anthologies, and, writing as J.C. Koch, in Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters, The Madness of Cthulhu, Vol. 1, and A Darke Phantastique anthologies. She will also have a story in the first book in an X-Files anthology series coming out in 2015.
For what age audience do you write?
I write for pretty much anyone, but I don’t write children’s or middle grade, and while I think my books are fine for mature YA readers, I don’t, as of yet, write YA. My main genres are Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, and Mystery/Suspense, but I write under a variety of pen names, so I kind of cover all the genre bases. The Alien series has a high heat level (call it a Hard R), but everything else so far is PG-13.
Tell us about your latest book.
It’s the best book ever and a deal at twice the price!
No? Okay then, the 10th book in my Alien/Katherine “Kitty” Katt series, Universal Alien, is a book I’ve been building to for the entire series so far. It’s also a pivotal book in that it’s going to allow me to open things up and pretty much do whatever I want, whenever I want. Within good storytelling reason, of course.
It’s also the book that reveals the true identity of the Mastermind, which is a reveal that fans have been awaiting for several books now.
For those who haven’t picked up this series yet, start with Touched by an Alien. Trust me on this one. The series follows Kitty as she discovers the Roswell rumors are true, but with a twist – the aliens are here to help us and, as a side benefit, they’re all gorgeous. They also have talents and abilities that are far superior to those of humankind. They’re also at the center of every plot or conspiracy theory going. Kitty ends up using her natural talents – sarcastic wit, bravery, vast knowledge of pop culture, in-depth knowledge of comics, and love of rock and roll – to save the day. Basically, if Kitty’s around, hijinks ensue.
What do you hope readers will get from reading that book?
Entertainment, enjoyment, laughter, thrills, chills, and perhaps a few thoughts about political, religious, racial, and socio-economic issues. But mostly entertainment. Because that’s my job.
Henry: That’s a lot! Clearly a bargain at the price.
Two of your books are titled Touched by an Alien, and Alien in the Family. Will there be other TV show-based titles in your future?
Probably. I tend to go for pop culture-ish titles, though not always. My short story in the Two Hundred and Twenty-One Baker Streets anthology, for example, is entitled “All the Single Ladies”. So more TV or movie references are inevitable.
Henry: I look forward to Babylon 90210 and Downton Asteroid. You’re welcome.
What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?
Meeting all my deadlines on time. Because I’m a gold medal, world class procrastinator and, happily, I have a lot of deadlines.
Henry: And here I’ve exacerbated things by asking you to do an interview.
What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned from being a writer?
Meeting your deadlines is extremely important. But I honestly knew that one already.
Probably the most powerful lesson is that what you write matters, many times more than you realize. I’ve had readers in terrible circumstances tell me that my books were what got them through the hard times. That’s a wonderful, and very humbling, feeling.
What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been a writer?
Every single fan interaction. They’re all great, and I’d never have experienced them, or met all the wonderful people I have, if not for being a published author.
Henry: That’s right. We would never have met at a writers conference. And our lives would have been forever diminished. *swoons*
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Never give up, never surrender. And remember that grammar, spelling, punctuation, syntax, and word usage matter, especially to agents and editors.
Henry: Wait. Editors care about your writing ability!?
Do you have any favorite quotes?
Oh, of course. These are probably my all-time faves.
“I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve immortality through not dying.” Woody Allen
“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. No use being a damn fool about it.” W.C. Fields
“Never give up. Never, never give up. Never, never, ever give up.” Winston Churchill (yes, I know it’s a contradiction to the Fields quote. What can I say? I’m a woman of many moods, me.)
“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ ” Eleanor Roosevelt
Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you write?
Not really. I need to have music playing, anything in the broad spectrum of rock and roll, and definitely with lyrics. Other than that, finding the right band, song, or playlist for a book is, for me, the most important step. Beyond that, my only ritual is to sit my butt in the chair and write. That’s the only ritual that ensures success.
If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
Because I write superhero fiction with my Alien series, I’ve been asked this question a lot and so have given it a lot of thought. Therefore, I choose Hyperspeed. I could get so much more done if I could do it faster than someone can blink.
Henry: The thought of you with Hyperspeed is a bit intimidating. 🙂
If you could have three authors over for dinner, who would it be?
Oh, the hard question. Hard in that it’s really hard for me to limit it to three. I’m going to choose three who are dead, because I actually get to dine with many authors I admire these days. But I can’t run into these three at a convention. So I choose:
Robert Benchley, Charles Dickens & Mark Twain
The why is that Benchley is my favorite humorist of all time, Dickens is the reason we authors get paid, and Twain was the best social humorist of his and probably any other day. And they’re three of my all-time favorites. And I also think they’d be fun to eat with, since each would be trying to one-up the others in terms of witticisms and commentary.
If I got a bonus author, by the way, it would be Arthur Conan Doyle because Sherlock Holmes. I mean, ‘nuff said on that one, right?
What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?
Wow, another tough one. While I love vampires, werewolves, and really all the mythical creatures out there, I’m going to have to go with drop-dead gorgeous aliens who are enamored of humans and able to mate successfully (and frequently) with said humans. Because those aliens helped give me a writing career. So I’m partial to them.
Henry: So, you’re a Fifty Shades of Green kinda’ gal? 🙂
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Wait. You can do things other than write? I didn’t get that memo!
Henry: You are correct. It was a trick question.
What would you like it to say on your tombstone?
Beloved wife, mother, grandmother, great-great grandmother, great-great-great to infinity grandmother, pet mother, and author. We know she’s taking over, wherever she’s going.
Where can readers find your work?
Everywhere! No, really, everywhere. All my books are available in e-formats, and most are available in physical format as well. The Alien series is in pretty much all bookstores, too.
But it’s easiest to find that everywhere via my Bibliography page at my website: http://www.ginikoch.com/bibliography.htm We try to keep it updated as regularly as we can, but do forgive us when deadlines mean you know where my books are faster than I do.
This interview is also posted on the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.
Click to Tweet: Interview with Sci-Fi & Fantasy Author Gini Koch at http://wp.me/p31Xf4-OL via @Nimpentoad
Categories: Books, Fantasy, Science Fiction | Tags: author, fantasy, interview, mystery, science fiction | Permalink.