CprE student lands NSF fellowship four months into grad school

How does a graduate student receive a prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) fellowship only four months into a PhD program? Hands-on internships and one-on-one mentors certainly helped. At least, that is how it happened for Cory Kleinheksel, graduate student in computer engineering.

Cory enriched his Iowa State undergraduate years with learning experiences requiring applied computer engineering skills. He had internships all four summers and one fall semester with Rockwell Collins and with Garmin, International. Cory started his internships without applied skills, but he learned plenty about software development while working alongside engineers.

During his sophomore year, Cory took an experimental course in digital logic and processor design taught by Professor Arun Somani, and Somani encouraged Cory to think about graduate school. When Cory committed to graduate school he enrolled in the concurrent program, beginning his MS before he finished his BS. In October, before receiving his BS, Cory applied for the highly competitive NSF fellowship. The experience was his introduction to writing proposals. Cory had guidance from Professor Somani and Professor Manimaran Govindarasu, both of whom reviewed and critiqued his application. Because he was not yet well versed in potential research areas, Cory extensively read research papers and relied on the research knowledge of others to help him identify an intellectually challenging problem with the potential to make a significant contribution to society. The research problem Cory developed explores integrating streaming sensor data using a modular distributed architecture with the goal of enabling real-time decision making. The NSF fellowship will provide Cory with three years of doctoral studies support.

Cory thoroughly enjoys his experience in graduate school. At the beginning of his full-time graduate studies, he split his assistantship evenly between teaching and research. For his teaching assistantship Cory facilitated labs for CprE 288, the embedded systems class. Cory found that he enjoys interacting with students and now considers faculty service to be a strong possibility for his future. His first research assistantship was to help with the development of a publisher and subscription system. He has learned that he enjoys looking at what exists and then stepping back to seek answers to such fundamental questions as, “Why are we doing this, and why this way?”

Cory received the prestigious NSF fellowship early in his academic career because he sought opportunities to enrich his undergraduate education, he welcomed strong mentors, and he has learned to maximize his time and opportunities.


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