From a young age, Peng Shi proved to be talented with computers—talented enough to get him into trouble. One day, an eight-year-old Shi sat beside his father, a professor of statistics at Peking University, and mimicked his keyboard strokes. With no knowledge of what he was actually typing, Shi proceeded to move around the lab, typing the same sequence into computer after computer. His father was less than pleased to discover that every computer in the lab had been reformatted. “It took him a long time to fix,” laughs Shi.
Today, Shi is putting his computational skills to more constructive use in the Duke CS Department. Shi arrived at Duke in 2006 eager to study algorithms, and Professor Owen Astrachan encouraged him to jump right into Professor Kamesh Munagala’s graduate class. “After that, all I wanted to do was research,” says Shi, who received an Angier B. Duke Memorial Scholarship to attend Duke, a four-year merit-based award. With no time to waste, the young freshman joined Munagala’s lab and continued as a research assistant through his senior year, publishing two papers along the way. Under Munagala’s tutelage, Shi studied approximation algorithms for operations research, including machine replenishment and restless bandit problems. “He showed incredible maturity as a researcher right from his freshman year,” says Munagala. “He thinks creatively, questions all assumptions, is very energetic, and has amazing analytic skills.”
From left: C-SURF fellow Peng Shi, mentor Mingyu Guo, and faculty advisor Vince Conitzer
After a semester of study abroad in China, Shi applied for the C-SURF undergraduate research program. “Since I was considering graduate school, I wanted to see what grad school life was like,” says Shi. Upon his acceptance as a fellow, Shi began research with Professor Vincent Conitzer, studying game theory and mechanism design through two independent studies and a summer-long research project, culminating in another publication.
This year, Shi was a finalist for the Computing Research Association Outstanding Undergraduate Research Award and will graduate this spring with double major in CS and mathematics and a minor in economics. He has applied to CS and operations research graduate programs with plans to first defer for a year and volunteer in China for various non-governmental organizations focusing on issues such as education, poverty relief, and public health. “I want to do something with a direct impact on people who really need it,” says Shi.