Two Alumni With SCS Ties Earn Fulbrights

Heidi Opdyke Thursday, June 3, 2021

Sara Adkins and Shannon Lu, both of whom have ties to SCS, are among eight CMU alumni to earn Fulbright awards this year.

Two alumni with ties to the School of Computer Science were among the eight from Carnegie Mellon University recently awarded grants through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

Sara Adkins, who graduated in 2018 with a bachelor's degree in computer science and arts, earned a study/research award for graduate studies in sound and music computing at Queen Mary University of London in the United Kingdom. Shannon Lu, a 2020 graduate with bachelor's degrees in information systems and statistics and machine learning and a minor in human-computer interaction, chose the Taiwan English Teaching Assistantship for her Fulbright program.

Adkins said CMU helped her understand what it means to be an interdisciplinary researcher and define her own niche area.

"I did an integrated double major in computer science and music technology because I knew I liked both of those fields but didn't really know how I wanted to combine them," Adkins said. "Taking computer music classes in the School of Computer Science opened my eyes to the ways that computer science can be applied to music. This helped me decide that I wanted to focus my career on being a technologist who works with musicians and helps them make new electronic sounds."

Her research project for the Fulbright will expand on her senior capstone project for CMU's BXA Intercollege Degree Programs.

"The idea is for an algorithm to compose music in real time as a musician is performing. I explored the ways a human musician could interact with an algorithm to create a new art form," she said.

Lu said that one of the reasons she chose the Taiwan program was because she wanted an immersive experience to improve her language skills and gain a cross-cultural perspective on technology.

"At the time I was applying, it was around when Taiwan's initial COVID response was showing to be highly effective," Lu said. "I thought it was a unique opportunity to learn about how different technologies have the potential to affect day-to-day life in a meaningful way."

Lu started cultivating her interest in community engagement at CMU through roles in Residential Education, involvement with multicultural organizations on campus and volunteer work with Outreach360 — a student organization that does an alternative spring break trip to the Dominican Republic.

"Among other experiences, these taught me to be a more compassionate and empathetic person and to think about ideas from different points of view," Lu said. "I really valued the interpersonal connections I made, which is why I wanted to challenge myself in a new role and environment."

The Fulbright Program aims to improve cultural diplomacy and allow scholars and their international hosts to gain an appreciation of different viewpoints and beliefs though engagement in the community. Read more about the university’s eight Fulbright scholars on the CMU News website.  

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Aaron Aupperlee | 412-268-9068 |