Andrew McRae, a Ph.D. student in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) has been recognized with the Colonel Oscar P. Cleaver Award for a second time. McRae is just one of two students to be a double Cleaver Award recipient.
“A Ph.D. program is long and tedious and often seems futile. This award is a welcome reminder of how much the work and the graduate experience are worth, just as I hope the degree is for all Ph.D. students. This motivates me to work diligently and with the best of my ability as I study machine learning and as I pursue my future career,” said McRae.
In regard to his second win, McRae joked, “this diplomatically points out how slowly my studies move, as the ECE department had time to change the rules between the two occasions I got it.”
Prior to 2018, the award recognized ECE graduate students who scored the highest on the doctoral preliminary exam. McRae was first honored in 2016. The award now honors students with the most outstanding Ph.D. dissertation proposals from the previous year.
His dissertation, Finding and Exploiting Intrinsic Low Dimension in High-dimensional Inference, studies a phenomenon in theory that tries to understand what kinds of structures people can benefit from, and how to design algorithms that are mathematically guaranteed to work well with the structure. This work could lead to faster MRI scans, improve algorithms that streaming companies like Netflix use to recommend movies, and design neural networks to classify images with millions of pixels.
McRae is advised by Machine Learning Center Associate Director and ECE Associate Professor Mark Davenport and hopes to become a professor at a research university. McRae credits Davenport and ML@GT Senior Associate Director and ECE Schlumberger Professor Justin Romberg with continuously pushing him to improve both his research and presentation of his findings.
The accomplishment will be recognized as a part of the 2021 Roger P. Webb Awards on April 21. McRae will receive $1,000 and a plaque to commemorate the achievement.