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Google awards grad student Ethan Tseng a fellowship to study computer vision

Photo of Ethan Tseng standing outdoors.
Princeton Computer Science graduate student Ethan Tseng has won a 2023 Google Ph.D. Fellowship for his work on computer vision. Photo by Aaron Nathans

Sharon Waters, for the Office of Engineering Communications

Princeton doctoral student Ethan Tseng has won a 2023 Google Ph.D. Fellowship, presented to exemplary students in computer science and related fields.

Tseng, a sixth-year Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Computer Science, explores next-generation camera and display systems for smartphones, medical practice, autonomous vehicles, and virtual and augmented reality. Specifically, he designs systems that can leverage the benefits of emerging optical devices that interact with light through extremely small antennae. His research involves optics, image signal processors, machine learning and optimization.

Ethan Tseng standing in the hallway of the Friend Center next to a large TV monitor displaying 2 images of flowers side by side.  The flower on the right is a clearer image.  Ethan is holding a small postcard of the clearer flower.

Tseng presented videos taken by his ultracompact camera at Princeton University's 2023 Art of Science exhibition in the Friend Center. Photo by Phil McAuliffe

In 2021, Tseng was part of a team led by his adviser Felix Heide, assistant professor of computer science, that developed a camera the size of a grain of salt. The team achieved this by creating a new optical system that uses metasurfaces to shrink the camera’s hardware, and by using machine learning-based image-processing techniques to enable the camera to produce clear, full-color images on par with a conventional camera. Each of these tiny cameras features 1.6 million cylindrical posts that interact with light to produce the images. The camera could be used for medical procedures like endoscopies, where the device needs to be as minimally invasive as possible but still produce high-quality images, or extremely light-weight telescopes for satellites. The metasurfaces could also cover the entire surface of a device, transforming the entire back of a smartphone into a camera, for example, creating a smooth surface with no camera bumps.

Tseng has previously interned with the NextCam team at Adobe in 2021 and 2022 and at the Image Science Lab at Carnegie Mellon University in 2017. In 2023, Tseng received the Frontiers of Science Award from the International Congress of Basic Science. He was also a finalist for an Nvidia Graduate Research Fellowship and received an honorable mention for a Snap Research Fellowship. Tseng earned a bachelor’s degree with a double major in electrical and computer engineering and computer science from Carnegie Mellon University.

Google created the program in 2009 and this year awarded fellowships in 14 fields, including “Machine Perception, Speech Technology and Computer Vision,” the category for which Tseng was chosen. He was one of 67 students receiving a Google Ph.D. Fellowship this month. Fellows receive up to three years of funding covering full tuition and fees plus a stipend for living expenses, travel and personal equipment. Each student is matched with a Google Research Mentor.

In a statement, Google said: “We have given these students unique fellowships to acknowledge their contributions to their areas of specialty and provide funding for their education and research. We look forward to working closely with them as they continue to become leaders in their respective fields."

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