A group of people on stage with one receiving an award

College of Computing Alumna Wins ACM Dissertation Award

A College of Computing alumna has earned the highest honor given to doctoral candidates.

Nivedita Arora received the 2024 Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Doctoral Dissertation Award during an awards ceremony on Saturday in San Francisco. Arora, an assistant professor at Northwestern University, is the first Georgia Tech alumna to win the award, which includes a prize of $20,000.

Arora was a postdoctoral researcher at Georgia Tech’s School of Interactive Computing during the 2022-2023 academic year. She also earned her Ph.D. in computer science and her master’s in human-computer interaction from Georgia Tech.

At Northwestern, she directs the VAK Sustainable Computing Lab, which re-envisions computing from a sustainability-first approach.

“The ACM Doctoral Dissertation Award is the most prestigious recognition for doctoral research in our field,” said Josiah Hester, an associate professor in the School of Interactive Computing who mentored Arora during her postdoc. “The award is a testament to the recipient's exceptional contributions to the field of computing, marking them as a world-class leader and innovator.”

Arora creates sustainable computational materials that harvest energy from their surrounding environments and can be responsibly disposed of at the end of their life cycles. Under the advisement of Professor Thad Starner and former Georgia Tech Professor Gregory Abowd, she won the dissertation award for her work involving interactive sticky notes.

The interactive sticky notes perform computing tasks and allow wireless communication without battery dependency. 

Through her dissertation, Sustainable Interactive Wireless Stickers: From Materials to Devices on Applications, Arora demonstrated that interactive sticky notes can capture audio, store it as memory, and relay it to another location. For example, an Amazon Alexa user can communicate commands to Alexa without being nearby.

“With rising climate change and e-waste, it is imperative to build computing technologies with a sustainability-first approach,” Arora said. “My dissertation represents this core thinking. I am honored that ACM has recognized my research on sustainable computational materials. I am extremely grateful to my advisers, collaborators, friends, and family for their support.”

Her dissertation also earned Outstanding Dissertation recognition from Georgia Tech’s College of Computing in 2023. She also won the college’s 2022 Outstanding Graduate Research Assistant Award.

Arora was a finalist in the 2022 Fast Company Design Innovation Competition. In 2021, She won the ACM Gaetano Borriello Outstanding Ubiquitous Computing Student Award and was named an EECS Rising Star and a Foley Scholar.

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