Fan Lai awarded Kuck Dissertation Prize for thesis on minimalist systems for machine learning

The annual award recognizes the most impactful dissertations by PhD researchers in CSE.
Fan Lai
Fan Lai

CSE alum Fan Lai (PhD 2023) has been selected to receive the 2023 David J. Kuck CSE Dissertation Prize in recognition of his outstanding dissertation on minimalist systems for machine learning. The Kuck Dissertation Prize is awarded to one individual annually and aims to recognize exceptionally impactful dissertations by CSE PhD students. 

Lai’s dissertation, titled “Minimalist Systems for Pervasive Machine Learning,” focuses on reducing the resource demands of machine learning by leveraging minimalist approaches. His research demonstrates that building a minimalist software stack that integrates machine learning, systems, and networking can successfully minimize how much resources machine learning requires by: 1) reducing the amount of system execution required without sacrificing accuracy; and 2) reducing data collection by offloading demands to a larger, planet-scale data source.

Lai’s dissertation shows how embracing minimalist principles in systems design can significantly reduce resource requirements and optimize efficiency, and provides a roadmap for achieving more efficient, accessible, and automated machine learning. Lai graduated in 2023 and was advised by Prof. Mosharaf Chowdhury.

In addition to this honor, Lai was previously awarded the Eleanor A. Towner Prize for Outstanding PhD Research by the U-M College of Engineering. He was recognized as a Machine Learning and Systems Rising Star by MLCommons in 2023, was selected as a finalist for the Meta PhD Research Fellowship in 2022, received Best Paper Award at the ResilientFL workshop in 2021, and won the Distinguished Artifact Award at OSDI 2021.

Lai has accepted a position as an Assistant Professor of Computer Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, beginning Fall 2024. He will also be joining Systems Research@Google as a Visiting Faculty Researcher.