According to some colleagues, senior Omar Khan is the best undergraduate computer science researcher in the whole country. Thats a bit overblown, Khan said. He did, however, win the Computing Research Association award for Outstanding Male Undergraduate for 2003.
One cool thing about the award, he said, is that he got a free trip to San Diego for the presentation in June. The ceremony was held at the same time as a major computer science meeting, attended by many big names in the field.

The research that led to the award, done with Professor John Hopcroft and Associate Professor Bart Selman, is hard to visualize, because it involves graphs in many dimensions. Khan and his professors are trying to see how the links between ideas can be used to predict trends. Their database is the vast number of papers published each year in computer science, and the links are formed by the ways these papers contain citations to one another. By comparing the pattern of citations from one year to the next, the researchers hope to spot emerging trends.

Were still exploring, Khan said. Were not ready to make predictions yet. The principles involved might be applied to a wide variety of topics, from text searching to inquiring into the structure of the human brain.

Computing has been a big part of Khans life for as long as he can remember. He recalls getting his first computer at the age of 6, and writing a few simple programsmostly gamesin later years. Some of the interest probably rubbed off on him from Khans father, who immigrated from India to Canada in the 1960s, working first in computer science and then moving to administration.

At Cornell, Khan at first devoted considerable time to Cornell Mock Trial, serving on a team that placed in the top five in the 2001 national competition. Later he worked as a teaching assistant and course consultant in computer science and, at the Cornell Theory Center, helped to develop a virtual world designed to teach genetics to high school students. And he received the Frank and Rosa Rhodes Scholarship for 200203.

He spent summers doing research internships at the McGill University School of Computer Science and Xerox PARC. After graduation Khan will go to work for Google, a search engine company that is also very much interested in how things with complex linking patterns behave. His work there will build upon his current research and will give him an opportunity to develop and improve Googles search services. They have so many ideas and they dont have enough people to implement them, he explained.

Bill Steele, Cornell News Service