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Two Princeton CS seniors awarded Schwarzman Scholarships

Excerpt by Emily Aronson, Office of Communications

Two Princeton seniors concentrating in computer science have been have been named Schwarzman Scholars for 2022. The Schwarzman Scholarship covers the cost of graduate study and living toward a one-year master’s program at Tsinghua University in Beijing.

They are two of five Princeton students and alumni named as Scholars. The Princeton winners are Class of 2022 members Amina Ahmad, Justin Curl and Katherine (Katie) Dykstra, as well as Class of 2018 graduate Edric Huang and Class of 2016 graduate Nicholas Keeley. They are among the 151 Schwarzman Scholars representing 33 countries and 106 universities. The scholars will enroll at Tsinghua University in August 2022 to pursue a master’s degree in Global Affairs.

The scholarship program was founded by Blackstone investment firm co-founder Stephen Schwarzman.

Justin Curl

Justin Curl

Justin Curl
Photo by Amina Elgamal

Curl, of Santa Monica, California, is a computer science concentrator pursuing a certificate in technology and society.

Curl’s senior thesis research aims to remedy the performance disparity of artificial intelligence and machine learning models when they are applied to different demographic groups without collecting more data.

“Majoring in computer science has shown me just how profoundly artificial intelligence and machine learning will shape, affect and influence the lives of human beings without the input of human beings,” he said in his application. “As we develop technologies with such far-reaching potential, I want to ensure we do not lose sight of the consequences for real people, dedicating my undergraduate career to the single goal of promoting the thoughtful development and use of AI.”

Curl said spending a year in China as a Schwarzman Scholar will allow him to study how technology is developed and controlled by private and public sectors, and how policymakers and business leaders can work together to set acceptable uses for technology.

“Justin stands out through his work ethic and communication skills,” said Arvind Narayanan, an associate professor of computer science and Curl’s senior thesis adviser. “He is ideally prepared to undertake graduate study at the intersection of computer science (especially machine learning) and social science. Stewarding the responsible development of machine learning is one of the most critical questions facing our society today, and Justin is exceptionally well prepared to work in this area and make deep and lasting contributions.”

Curl has been involved in the Princeton Model United Nations, serving as secretary general and director general of crisis committees. He competed at the 2019 World Model United Nations event in Madrid. He also is a member of the Princeton Debate Panel.

He is a research assistant for Markus Prior, professor of politics and public affairs, and Curl was part of the project team’s research presentation at the 2021 American Political Science Association conference.

“Justin has been part of our Time in Politics project for two years now. We investigate how ordinary people evaluate policy outcomes that occur years in the future,” Prior said. “Justin does much of the programming of our survey interfaces and has become a valued co-author. He brings impeccable work ethic, boundless curiosity and unfailingly positive attitude to our teamwork.”

Curl’s other experience includes a summer as a business analyst at McKinsey and Company, a software engineering intern for cloud-based banking platform Blend and a special projects intern for Cellphire Therapeutics biotechnology firm in Rockville, Maryland.

In addition, Curl is a member of Butler College, an Orange Key admission tour guide and a volunteer for the suicide prevention hotline CONTACT Princeton.

Katherine (Katie) Dykstra

Katie Dykstra

Katie Dykstra
Photo by Alan Huo

Dykstra is a computer science concentrator from Ponte Vedra, Florida, with academic interests spanning public policy, computer science, investing and business. Her senior independent work focuses on artificial intelligence, specifically China’s recently released draft regulations regarding content recommendation algorithms.

“With a wide range of interests that amalgamate at the intersection of artificial intelligence (AI) and public policy, I believe the Schwarzman Scholarship will allow me to continue becoming idiosyncratically dynamic and adaptable,” Dykstra wrote in her application. “Based on insights from my time at Tsinghua, I hope to influence decision-makers within technological policy and renew the foundation for how the global approaches the future of AI and tech policy.”

Dykstra has been a leader for many organizations at Princeton. She was director of human capital for the student publication Business Today; director of technology for Business Today’s 2019 international conference; and an investment analyst for the student-run investment organization Tiger Capital Management. She currently serves as vice president of the independent student eating club, Ivy Club.

A member of Rockefeller College, she is also an undergraduate course facilitator for “Introduction to Computer Science” and was a course grader for “Introduction to Programming Systems” for several semesters.

“Katie has the intellectual ability, drive, initiative and cultural curiosity to succeed [as a Schwarzman Scholar],” said Narayanan, who has taught Dykstra in computer science courses and advised her research. “These interactions have left me with no doubt of her first-rate creativity and leadership potential.”

Beyond Princeton, Dykstra has completed software engineering and product management internships at Microsoft and Citibank. Last summer, she began worked as an investment analyst for the New York-based firm Ruane, Cunniff and Goldfarb.

She also was a participant in the Florida State University Young Scholars Program, completing a six-week summer program in computational science and astrophysics.

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