Logo: University of Southern California

USC Viterbi doctoral student wins prestigious Google Fellowship

Fellowship awarded for groundbreaking work on software for social networks
March 13, 2014 —

Sumita Barahmand, a USC Viterbi Ph.D. candidate in the Computer Science department, was awarded one of 39 Google Global Ph.D. Fellowships for her work in cloud computing.

Barahmand won the award for her pioneering work on “BG,” a benchmarking tool developed to evaluate the processing capability of data stores used in social networks. Data stores contain readily accessible information such as a member’s list of friends and help facilitate interactive communication among members.

Sumita Barahmand

 “More than 40 data stores have been introduced during the past few years, and their number continues to increase each year with no more than a few benchmarks to substantiate their many claims,” Barahmand said.  

Barahmand’s interest in computing started at a young age. Growing up in the historic Iranian city of Tabriz, her brother mentored and encouraged her to enter the field of computer science. “He told me that computer science is all about analytical and abstract thinking, outside the box approach to problem solving, creativity and teamwork, all of which I was good at,” Barahmand said.

“I was mostly fascinated by how search engines, social networks and email services with a large number of users and a humongous amount of data and information, stored, searched and retrieved data all in real time," she added. "This is how I started reading more about data storage for different applications, their structures, use and other capabilities."  

Her love for computing led her to the prestigious Sharif University of Technology in Iran, where she majored in information technology engineering. After graduation, she explored the possibility of graduate school in the U.S., finally settling on USC for its academic reputation and opportunities outside of the classroom.

“Friends of mine who had studied at USC before I joined were unanimous in the opinion that good work-life balance was possible at USC,” Barahmand said.

Barahmand’s faculty advisor and mentor, USC Viterbi Professor Shahram Ghandeharizadeh, said she is among the best doctoral students with whom he has ever worked. “She is smart, creative, and a dedicated individual who brings projects to completion,” he said. “Sumita’s proposed framework is quite novel and opens several new research directions that benefit the systems research community.”

Her future plans include studying the behavior of users in social networks to further understand the requirements of a social networking application. This research can lead to more realistic models for evaluating data stores to manage their data that can then be used to improve user experience, performance and other features for social networks. This effort includes the participation of her Google Mentor, Dobromir Montauk, who is providing years of insight into building and deploying systems to make her benchmark more realistic.  

Google started its Ph.D. Fellowship Program in 2009 as a way of recognizing and supporting outstanding graduate students who pursue work in computer science-related disciplines or promising research areas. The two-year fellowship includes tuition and fees, a $33,000 yearly stipend, and a Google research mentor.

“The award has increased my motivation to pursue excellence in research and education and has highlighted the cloud benchmark that I have developed at USC,” Barahmand said. “This makes me more attractive to prospective employers, leading to a better opportunity for career development and better quality of life, and makes me feel all the more responsible and eager to serve humanity to the best of my ability.”

On March 6, Barahmand was honored with a 2014 Remarkable Women Award. The Office of Campus Activities, the USC Alumni Association and the Women’s Student Assembly cosponsored the award, which celebrates the accomplishments and contributions of women alumni, faculty, staff, and students at USC.