Graduate student receives prestigious Microsoft fellowship

Danielle Gonzalez one of 10 best research students in North America selected for award

Danielle Gonzalez, a RIT Ph.D. student, was awarded the 2019 Microsoft Research Ph.D. Fellowship.

Danielle Gonzalez, a computing and information sciences Ph.D. student at Rochester Institute of Technology, was one of only 10 outstanding doctoral students in North America selected to receive the 2019 Microsoft Research Ph.D. Fellowship.

After a rigorous evaluation process, the two-year fellowship was awarded to 10 third-year doctoral students at North American universities who are pursuing research aligned to the directions pursued by Microsoft Research.

“These are the best Ph.D. students in North America; they are incredibly talented and it is really an honor to support them at this important and exciting stage of their careers,” said Neel Joshi, chair of the Microsoft Research Ph.D. Fellowship and a senior researcher at Microsoft’s research lab, in a statement.

The program provides tuition and fees for two consecutive academic years and an annual stipend of $42,000 to help with living expenses and conference travel.

“Receiving this award is a big honor,” said Gonzalez, who is from Franklinville, N.Y. “To me, it is an affirmation that the problems I aim to fix are relevant and my solutions are impactful.”

In addition, fellows are offered an invitation to interview for a salaried internship with Microsoft researchers who are working on cutting-edge projects related to their field of study. Microsoft Research also pays for their travel to attend the Ph.D. Summit—a two-day workshop held at the Redmond, Wash., lab in the fall.

“Microsoft’s support will allow me to focus all of my time and energy into my research topic and extend the capabilities of my work,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez is working on her Ph.D. work in the Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences Center for Cybersecurity and software engineering department. She also received a bachelor’s in software engineering from RIT in 2016.

The goal of Gonzalez’s research is to make security testing during development easier via unit testing. She uses static code analysis, large-scale data mining, natural language processing, and machine learning techniques to learn which critical paths and conditions in security tactic implementations can and should be unit-tested and automatically generate artifacts. The artifacts include test case plans and recommendations that will make the testing process easier for developers while preserving their control over what is tested.

Mehdi Mirakhorli, an adviser and assistant professor of software engineering, remarked how Gonzalez’s love of science and scientific exploration makes her a deserving recipient of the award.

“She has a strong work ethic, spends long hours in her research, with pleasure, despite numerous challenges,” said Mirakhorli. “She is patient and detail oriented, open-minded about other approaches and research hypothesis and she is not afraid of changing ideas and redoing analysis.”

The Microsoft Research Ph.D. Fellowship was established in 2008. Since its inception, the program has supported 132 fellows who have gone on to perform pioneering research in the technology industry or accept faculty appointments at universities around the world.

Other fellows selected in 2019 are from Stanford University, Carnegie Mellon University, University of Texas at Austin, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Princeton University, MIT and University of Maryland.

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