CEAS Graduate Student Selected to Represent UC at MAGS Awards

By: Ashley Duvelius

School of Computing Sciences and Informatics graduate student and computer science major, Mengxia Wang, was selected to represent UC in the upcoming 2013 Midwest Association of Graduate Schools (MAGS) Distinguished Master’s Thesis Awards.


School of Computing Sciences and Informatics graduate student, Mengxia Wang, has been recently selected to represent UC in the upcoming 2013 Midwest Association of Graduate Schools (MAGS) Distinguished Master’s Thesis Awards. The computer science major and recent graduate was selected due to her extensive, ground-breaking research and significant contributions to the field of Brain Computer Interface Technology (BCI).

The MAGS Award recognizes recent master’s graduates who have demonstrated exceptional scholarship in their theses. UC full-time faculty are encouraged to nominate a recently-graduated master’s student for this award. UC then chooses one student to nominate to the region-wide MAGS competition. The MAGS committee makes the final selection—one in the arts and one in the sciences—and then awards each recipient a $750 honorarium. In addition, $500 will also be available to help with the recipient’s travel expenses to attend the annual meeting.

Margaret Hanson, PhD and Associate University Dean of the UC Graduate School, comments, “The UC nomination committee was instantly impressed that Wang’s novel work was researched entirely on her own and was not just part of a larger project being led by other students and post-docs.”

Wang’s research is both innovative and inspiring as it benefits those with disabilities. A BCI system builds a direct pathway between the brain and an external device which allows patients with impaired motor activities to communicate with others. The basic BCI system can be applied beyond the signal processing aspects, to BCI problems other than that of spelling.

As of now, spelling and spelling accuracy are the main foci of Wang’s BCI research. Among the varieties of BCI systems, the P300 Speller is one that has been successfully developed with several advantages such as being easier to carry on the experiment with and the achievement of a relatively better accuracy rate. With the modified P300 Speller BCI system, the subject who uses the system is able to spell words in less time, while still preserving spelling accuracy.

Wang was first attracted to UC because of its ranking as a top research university. The scholarships it offered also helped to sway her vote. Wang’s advisor, Anca Ralescu, PhD and School of Computing Sciences and Informatics professor, was the one who first introduced her to the field of BCI Technology.

“I would like to thank Dr. Anca Ralescu. She brought me into my field. I wouldn’t have accomplished my thesis without her devoted help and support. It is a great pleasure to be her student and I have truly learned a lot from her,” Wang reflects.

Ralescu adds, “When she came to UC, three years ago, Mengxia knew that she wanted to do an MS in computer science. However, her level of confidence was not that high. It took a lot of determination and persistence from the both of us to build up her confidence.

We embarked together on a journey of discovering this field—we studied and attended several workshops around the country together. This past summer, we had an exciting time of discussing our research, editing a paper based on it (soon to be submitted to the Journal of Cognitive Neurodynamics) and exploring various ideas. After her defense, Mengxia captured the time we spent in one succinct phrase: unforgettable.

Both Mengxia and I are honored by her selection to represent UC at the 2013 MAGS Awards. We know that there are many bright, hard-working students and dedicated advisors out there who are as equally deserving of the award as Mengxia. Her journey to this point, the subject matter, her work and final editing of the thesis that was done with so much care, resulted in a thesis for which I feel that she fully deserves this honor.”

Having just earned her master’s degree in computer science this past fall, Wang eagerly awaits the future. She is continuing on with graduate school and is already working towards her second master’s degree in business analytics. Wang hopes to one day enter into a career which combines the knowledge of computer science and statistics methods that she’s enjoyed learning at UC.

As she continues on with her education, Wang adds, “The MAGS Award has helped me to build confidence in my own abilities. It’s proof that my extensive and trying work really pays off. And it inspires me to carry my success onward, both academically and professionally.”

Please join UC CEAS in congratulating Mengxia Wang on a job well done.

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