Alumnus Awarded Innovation Fellowship

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Harvey Mudd College alumnus Adrian Sampson ’09 has been awarded a 2013 Qualcomm Innovation Fellowship for work that will make computers more efficient.

The fellowship recognizes, rewards and mentors innovative PhD students across a broad range of technical areas, based on innovation, execution and teamwork.

Sampson, who is now pursuing graduate studies at the University of Washington, will share the $100,000 award with his fellow student and researcher Thierry Moreau for their proposal, “Approximate Acceleration.”

Their proposed project involves the design of approximate computing “accelerators” to make computers more efficient in regard to energy consumption, performance and complexity.

“Computers spend a lot of time and energy ensuring that everything they compute is exactly correct, but for many of the most important tasks, uncompromising precision is not really necessary. Approximate computing asks: how can we make computers more efficient if we allow them to make occasional mistakes?” said Sampson, who works with University of Washington’s Sampa Group on energy-efficient computing through the lenses of programming languages and computer architecture. “We’ll design hardware circuitry, compilers and programming language features that help make approximate software faster and more energy efficient by trading off guarantees of perfect precision.”

Sampson is the recipient of a Google PhD Fellowship in Computer Architecture and a Facebook PhD Fellowship. A 2009 HMC computer science graduate (with honors in CS and humanities, social sciences and the arts), he has worked at Qualcomm BARD and in Microsoft Research’s XCG.

Qualcomm invited teams from 15 universities to submit proposals to the competitive fellowship program. Thirty-three finalist teams were chosen from the 138 proposals received. The finalists presented their proposals at Qualcomm R&D centers this spring, and eight winners were chosen to receive 2013 Qualcomm Innovation Fellowships.