NYUAD Junior Receives Award for Creativity in Computer Science

A student works on her computer during lab.

NYU Abu Dhabi junior Juan Felipe Beltrán has received the Max Goldstein Prize for Creativity in Computer Science, an award given each year to a New York University undergraduate who has used computing to creatively enhance the academic, cultural, or social life of the NYU community. "I am very humbled by being recognized," Beltrán said. "It pushes me to work much harder in the future."

Throughout his three years at NYUAD, Beltrán has used his skills in computer science to improve student life in the NYUAD community. His first project proposed a scheduling system that would allow NYUAD students to outline their semester schedules as well as their four-year plans. Beltrán spent one semester working with the University's IT team to develop the proposal, which has helped drive an ongoing project to overhaul the academic planning tools offered to students.

Beltrán also tackled the issue of voting at NYUAD by building a system that allows students to vote on iPads using their student identification codes. "Once the first system started working, I realized the potential these kinds of projects had and founded the Research and Development Committee in Student Government — it's a way for local programmers to work in an organized manner toward improving Student Life and administration," Beltrán explained.

Active in the NYU New York community as well, Beltrán spoke at the TEDxNYU event earlier this month on the NYUNY campus. Connecting his research with NYUAD Research Professor of Computer Science Godfried Toussaint on musical rhythms with cognitive science, he used rhythm similarity measurements and split brain research to challenge the trustworthiness of rationalization.

"I was very pleased with the talk itself," Beltrán said. "I was quite worried about going into cognitive science, as it is not my field, but two of the other speakers had a very strong background in neuroscience and made sure to nod encouragingly when I mentioned the brain."

As he enters his final year at NYUAD, Beltrán looks forward to further discovering how to apply computer science to enrich community life. "Computer Science allows you to interact with information," he explained. "If you have a sharp improvement in information gathering, processing, and spread, you move toward a community that is more transparent and objectively fair."