Facebook connects 845 million people with friends and family and finances the post-graduate education of 12 of them, including two at Carnegie Mellon University.
As Facebook Fellows, doctoral students Hyeontaek Lim and Michelle Mazurek, both of whom are working to solve Web-based technical problems, will have tuition and fees paid for the entire academic year and will receive a $30,000 stipend, $5,000 for travel expenses and conference attendance and $2,500 for a personal computer. All fellows also will have a chance to apply for a paid summer internship.
Mr. Lim, a 28-year-old South Korea native, earned his bachelor's degree in computer science in 2009 from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology before coming to Pittsburgh.
Now in his third year of study in CMU's computer science department, Mr. Lim is researching ways to improve large-scale Internet services by improving efficiency across distributed systems, which use computers connected to multiple networks to resolve issues that may be too complex for a single computer.
Ordinary users might not notice a difference if Mr. Lim's work is applied to Facebook, but the concept of resource-efficient computing will allow the company to use less bandwidth and energy.
"What I'm working on is not immediately visible to the end users, but in fact is making a Facebook-like system very quickly effective," he said.
Ms. Mazurek, a 29-year-old from Huntingdon Valley, Pa., was nudged into the industry at an early age through working at her father's programming/electrical engineering firm in high school.
After earning a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from the University of Maryland, she worked in the computer engineering field for four years before deciding to enroll in CMU's Electrical and Computer Engineering program.
With her interests focused on computer security, Ms. Mazurek said she decided to research more effective and secure forms of content-sharing. The goal, she said, is to build a smart system that sorts content into categories chosen by users trying to organize how their information is shared.
The idea is that the rules should be meaningful to the user -- however you think about organizing the people you want to share with and the content you want to share, you can make that happen, rather than be locked into some organizing principle that was established for you, she wrote in an email.
While the research could certainly apply to Facebook, Ms. Mazurek said it also has broader applications.
Considering the fact that two of the program's five inaugural fellows were also CMU doctoral candidates, the university has made a strong case for itself as one of the organization's premier academic partners.
Harry Li, the Facebook engineering academic lead who managed this year's fellowship review process, said the selections demonstrate the success of the university's computer science programs.
"The Facebook Fellowship program supports the most promising Ph.D. students in areas of computer science, and it is a testament to CMU's technical strength that two of our fellows come from their Parallel Data Lab," he said.
The Facebook Fellowship, which was introduced in 2010 to strengthen relationships with academic institutions and to aid doctoral candidates, has so far supported the work of 10 students.
Positive reviews of work done by previous fellows encouraged Facebook to increase the number for this year's program from five to 12.
Mr. Lim and Ms. Mazurek will visit Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif., later in the year to discuss their research with company engineers.
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