Liza Gak Awarded NSF Graduate Research Fellowship & Tonya Nguyen Receives Honorable Mention

05 Apr, 2022

Liza Gak Awarded NSF Graduate Research Fellowship & Tonya Nguyen Receives Honorable Mention

Congratulations to Liza Gak (Information) for obtaining a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship and to Tonya Nguyen (Information) for receiving an Honorable Mention!

The NSF Graduate Reseach Fellowship Program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported STEM disciplines who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees at accredited US institutions. The five-year fellowship includes three years of financial support including an annual stipend of $34,000 and a cost of education allowance of $12,000 to the institution.

The Fellowship helps ensure the vitality of the human resource base of science and engineering in the United States and reinforces its diversity. As the oldest graduate fellowship of its kind, the GRFP has a long history of selecting recipients who achieve high levels of success in their future academic and professional careers. The reputation of the GRFP follows recipients and often helps them become life-long leaders that contribute significantly to both scientific innovation and teaching. Past fellows include numerous Nobel Prize winners, former U.S. Secretary of Energy, Steven Chu, Google founder, Sergey Brin and Freakonomics co-author, Steven Levitt.

From the School of Information's announcement:

Liza Gak’s research focuses on Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) and studying how people are harmed and healed online. “I am interested in research supporting vulnerable communities’ healing from online harms,” she said, “and facilitating opportunities for collective action to promote user agency.” Most recently, she has studied how targeted weight-loss advertising harms users with histories of disordered eating, and how those users resist in creative and collective ways.

“Pursuing science as a Ph.D. student is inspiring in that it relies so deeply on connections with others,” said Gak. “Whether it’s collaborating with my advisor and labmates, serving as a GSI for undergraduate students, or interviewing participants in a research study, science is a highly connective and collaborative process. I feel excited by opportunities for mentorship, which are transformative for first-generation college students like myself.”

Tonya Nguyen’s research centers on HCI, social computing, and new media. Her interests broadly focus on how algorithmic systems directly impact marginalized communities at scale and on building alternative sociotechnical configurations that center the needs and values of the communities they impact.

“Technology continues to become more powerful, but not necessarily more equitable or promotive of self-efficacy,” Nguyen said. “As a researcher, I wish to help narrow this gap.”

“Having the unique opportunity to study and design how sociotechnical systems will continue to impact our increasingly globalized world is not only an intellectual endeavor for me but a personal one,” she continued. “My background as a first-generation college student, child of Southeast Asian war refugees, and a Ph.D. student has led me to question which issues deserved closer scrutiny to better address the complex technologies that disproportionately affect marginalized communities. Informed by my background, I am in a unique position to uplift and engage the very communities I came from. I want to make lasting contributions to research on social computing systems and encourage other young people like me to seek out similar opportunities.”

For more information on this award, please see it here.