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Ruth Fong ’15, a computer science concentrator doing research in David Cox’s lab, is one of two Harvard students named 2015 Rhodes Scholars.
Every year, 32 students attending American universities are awarded the prestigious scholarship to pursue graduate degrees at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. Scholars are not only chosen for their impressive scholarly achievements, but also their character, commitment to others and the common good, and their potential for leadership in their chosen fields, according to the Rhodes Trust. Fong will pursue two Master of Science degrees—one in Mathematics and Foundations in Computer Science and the other in Computer Science, beginning in the fall of 2015.
“I am still surprised by my selection, but I hope to use the opportunity to equip myself to ‘fight the world’s fights’”, said Fong. “I am hugely thankful to the Harvard community for the many opportunities it has provided me to develop my passions; in particular, I am indebted to Professor David Cox, Dr. Walter Scheirer, and the rest of the Cox lab for their professional and personal mentorship and their constant support and encouragement,” she said.
The Cox lab combines biology and computer science, studying the brain and building systems inspired and informed by its inner workings. During her time in the lab, Fong researched how neuroscience could be combined with machine learning to advance computer vision. Her thesis used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data to improve the performance of machine vision algorithms, so that computers can be trained to identify objects and images in a way that closely mimics the human brain.   David Cox, Assistant Professor in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology and Fong’s mentor, wasn’t surprised she was selected, characterizing her as an uncommonly bright and ambitious student. “Ruth represents a new breed of computer science student who is able to span across traditional disciplinary boundaries,” said Cox.
He also lauded her as a down-to-earth person eager to make the world a better place. “She has volunteered her time and skill to help build infrastructure in sub-Saharan Africa, and, in spite of having very nice job offers from Wall Street firms, she’s exploring a much broader range of career options,” said Cox. “Whatever she decides to do, I’m sure that a sense of social responsibility will play a central role.”

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