Started in 2009, the Google Fellowship Program was created to broaden Google's support of university research. This year as fellowship winners were announced, a Robertson alumnus was among those selected for the prestigious award.
Tyler McCormick, Duke '05, sees more than just status updates, photos, and tweets when he looks at social networks like Facebook and Twitter. He sees a complex statistical model that could possible shed light on how -- and what -- we learn about populations of people around the world that have traditionally been difficult to study.
As a Ph.D. student in Statistics at Columbia University in New York City, Tyler applies statistical theories and standard surveys to his study of social networks. He is striving to identify a way to discover characteristics of a population of people when only very limited information is available and access to that population is difficult, such as with HIV/AIDS patients, injection drug users, and individuals who are homeless.
Tyler's approach as a statistician is unique in that a primary focus of his work is actually on the social science implications of his findings. He believes this appreciation for the interdisciplinary nature of the problem is a result of his experience as a Robertson Scholar. As a scholar, his academic work was informed by the diverse resources of both Duke and UNC, affording him a cross-discipline depth of perspective. Indeed, the committee which oversaw his undergraduate honors thesis was comprised of researchers at both Duke and UNC: a statistician, a sociologist, and a psychologist.
"I had no idea I was approaching my work differently, until I got out of the program and realized that not everyone had had that experience," he says. "In fact, my identity as a researcher is shaped by having a background at both universities."
The Google Fellowship Program supports "graduate students in their quest to discover and achieve great things," both of which Tyler seems poised to do. 15 students received the award in 2010 and it will provide full financial coverage of tuition, fees and stipend for up to three years. "These students have been exemplary thus far in their careers, and we're looking forward to seeing them build upon their already impressive accomplishments," Google states in its press release.
The Robertson Scholars Program and community congratulate Tyler on this deserved recognition of the excellence of his work and his potential to have an impact on the world!
To view Google's press release, click here.
For more information about Tyler's work, click here.