CMNS Winter 2021 Commencement Speakers Announced

Kianté Brantley and Connor Lu were selected as the student speakers for the University of Maryland College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences (CMNS) Winter 2021 Commencement Ceremony

Kianté Brantley

Kiante Brantley. Photo courtesy of same. Click image to download hi-res version.Kianté Brantley is a Ph.D. candidate in computer science advised by Pier Giorgio Perotto Endowed Professor Hal Daumé III. Brantley designs algorithms that efficiently integrate domain knowledge into sequential decision-making problems. He is most excited about imitation learning and interactive learning—or, more broadly, settings that involve a feedback loop between a machine learning agent and the input the machine learning agent sees. He has published five first-author conference papers and co-authored three more. He won second place for his talk at the Natural Language, Dialog and Speech Symposium, a leading machine learning conference.

Brantley recently received a prestigious Computing Innovation Fellowship, which will support him for two years as a postdoc at Cornell University. He will study theoretical and practical aspects of learning-to-rank recommendation system problems with Professor Thorsten Joachims. The outcome of their study will be new methodologies with theoretical guarantees and practical benefits for sequential decision-making in recommendation systems.

As a Ph.D. student, Brantley was awarded the competitive Microsoft Research Dissertation Grant, the Association for Computing Machinery’s Special Interest Group on High-Performance Computing/Intel Computational and Data Science Fellowship, the National Science Foundation Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation Bridge to the Doctorate Program Fellowship, the UMD Ann G. Wylie Dissertation Fellowship and the UMD Graduate School’s Dean’s Fellowship. Over the past four summers, he interned for Microsoft Research.

Before coming to UMD in 2016, Brantley attended the University of Maryland, Baltimore County where he earned his bachelor’s degree and master’s degree (advised by Tim Oates) in computer science. He also worked as a developer for the U.S. Department of Defense from 2010 to 2017. In his free time, Brantley enjoys playing sports; his favorite at the moment is powerlifting.

Connor Lu

Connor Lu. Photo courtesy of same. Click image to download hi-res version.Connor Lu is graduating with a bachelor of science degree in biological sciences specializing in general biology and a minor in general business. He is from Rockville, Maryland, where he was born and raised by his parents, who emigrated from Vietnam.

Before coming to the University of Maryland in fall 2018, Lu attended Our Lady of Good Counsel High School, playing on the basketball and soccer teams as well as playing the piano recreationally. He was admitted to the University Honors program at UMD and received a Dean’s Scholarship. 

He quickly joined the Vietnamese Student Association, Delta Epsilon Mu and the Student Dental Advisory Board and became a CMNS Peer Mentor. He also participated in the First-Year Innovation & Research Experience program. Lu was selected for membership in several honor societies, including Alpha Lambda Delta, Phi Eta Sigma and Phi Kappa Phi.

Aside from academics and extracurricular activities, Lu has volunteered with service organizations including Mission of Mercy, Terps Against Hunger, the Food Recovery Network and Miles for Smiles.

After graduation, Lu will work full-time as a dental assistant before attending dental school next fall. His career goal is to be a general dentist in the area, managing his own practice and providing care to underserved communities.

About the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences

The College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences at the University of Maryland educates more than 8,000 future scientific leaders in its undergraduate and graduate programs each year. The college's 10 departments and nine interdisciplinary research centers foster scientific discovery with annual sponsored research funding exceeding $250 million.