Computer Science Major Earns Prestigious National Award for Outstanding Undergraduate Research

By Tom McLaughlin

Hoon Oh, a senior computer science major at Rutgers University–Camden, has earned a 2017 Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Award from the Computing Research Association – one of the most prestigious honors in the United States awarded to an undergraduate student majoring in computer science.

The Pemberton resident is the first Rutgers–Camden student to earn the nod. Two Rutgers–Camden graduates, Brian Brubach and Robert MacDavid, had previously earned honorable mentions in the competition as students.

“The honor is well deserved – not only is he very talented, he has a strong work ethic, has a positive attitude towards learning, and above all, he is a wonderful human being,” says Rajiv Gandhi, an associate professor of computer science at Rutgers–Camden.

Oh competed for the award, which recognizes undergraduate students in North American universities who show outstanding research potential in an area of computing research, with nominees from other non-Ph.D. granting institutions throughout the country.

The Rutgers–Camden undergraduate’s research focuses on algorithm design and analysis, with applications to complex problems such as radio aggregation scheduling, capacitated broadcast scheduling, and the stable matching problem with couples. While only an undergrad, he has already published two research papers: “Radio Aggregation Scheduling,” which appeared in Proceedings for the 11th International Symposium on Algorithms and Experiments for Wireless Sensor Networks – ALGOSENSORS 2015; and “Minimizing the Maximum Flow Time in Batch Scheduling,” which appeared in Operations Research Letters in November 2016.

“We aren’t focusing on the coding aspect so much as the theories of computation in programming,” explains Oh. “We want to come up with algorithms that most efficiently run computations in order to solve different types of problems. If you were to try every possible solution, without considering what is most efficient, then it would take an inordinate amount of time – like thousands of years.”

Oh credits his exponential growth to the nurturing academic environment at Rutgers University–Camden, especially the opportunity to work consistently with Gandhi, whom he praises as a major factor in his progress.

“This award is validation of everything that I have learned from him,” he says.

Any way you do the math, Oh has made quick work towards academic excellence since his early high school days at Cherry Hill East High School. A native of Korea, he recalls that he was still struggling with a language barrier and his grades suffered as a result.

However, the universal language of mathematics came much easier. He first had the opportunity to study with Gandhi at the Program in Algorithmic and Computational Thinking, a precollege summer program at Princeton University partially funded by the National Science Foundation and Rutgers University. He then jumped at the opportunity to continue working with Gandhi at Rutgers–Camden.

In addition to his studies, the senior computer science major worked as a teaching assistant at Rutgers­–Camden, and returns to the Program in Algorithmic and Computational Thinking to serve as a guest lecturer.

Hoon, who plans to pursue his Ph.D., focusing on algorithmic game theory, will be featured with his fellow award recipients in the January 2017 issue of Computing Research News.

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