Matthew Fisher wins Prestigious Hertz Fellowship

November 12, 2007

LIVERMORE, Calif. -- November 12, 2007

 Up-and-coming computer scientist and Charlottean Matthew Fisher envisions a future where cars safely drive themselves without human intervention, and where crash tests reliably take place without using real automobiles. Automated vision and navigation and photo-realistic simulation are interests that Fisher, 21, plans to research at Stanford University using his full five-year graduate fellowship from the prestigious Fannie and John Hertz Foundation.  "One day, I would like to lead a team of people to transition next-generation computer-based solutions from the academic setting to widespread usage," Fisher says.  For example, research is currently being conducted on developing cars that can 'auto correct' to prevent accidents, or that can take you to destinations without actually having a driver.

Though it is hard to trust a computer to that extent today, the capability exists in an early stage and is already partially used in some
commercial settings." Fisher has a 2007 bachelor's degree in computer science from the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena,
Calif. Fisher, who attended Charlotte's Myers Park High School before graduating from the North Carolina School of Science and Math in 2003, is one of 15 graduate students selected from more than 580 across the country to receive the Hertz graduate fellowship. 

Of diverse ethnicities and backgrounds, Hertz Fellows each receive up to $240,000 over five years to pursue their own scientific interests at top universities in the United States. This no-strings-attached support gives Hertz Fellows financial independence and freedom to conduct innovative research because, unlike many other grants, university and study choices are not limited by strict funding requirements. "Hertz Fellows represent the very best young scientific talent in our nation," says John Holzrichter, PhD, Hertz Foundation president. "These students embody the drive and curiosity to solve the most difficult problems our world faces, and we are pleased to support them as they grow in their chosen disciplines.  

Interested in discrete differential geometry, and more generally in computer vision and computer graphics, Fisher has spent his summers as an intern at Microsoft Corporation in Seattle. There, he developed a sophisticated tool that helps pinpoint specific performance issues related to graphics so that programmers can zero in on problem areas in the software while having access to hardware issues at the same time. The tool has also been useful in identifying and fixing bugs and enhancing performance in Microsoft's newest operating system. Fisher has a patent pending for the tool, which is still fully supported by Microsoft two years later.

Fisher has always enjoyed building things from scratch, starting with Lincoln logs and Legos as a child. At age seven, he learned to program his family home computer in BASIC, and admittedly has been hooked on computers and computer gaming ever since.  Fisher has aspirations to work for an influential institution, such as Boeing or Microsoft, and focus research efforts on virtual reality, artificial intelligence and image analysis.  When he's not on the computer, Fisher may be found in the kitchen creating a batch of curry for his friends, on his unicycle or swing dancing.  He also enjoys storytelling and role playing, and is a Rubik's Cube buff.  

Receiving the Hertz Fellowship is the newest addition to Fisher's long list of academic achievements.  While at Caltech, Fisher had a paper published and presented at SIGGRAPH, the most prestigious forum for the publication of computer graphics research. He also received the George W. Housner Prize for Academic Excellence and Academic Research, the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, and an honorable mention in the Computing Research Association undergraduate achievement award. 

Fisher's father, Wayne Fisher, is a retired U.S. Coast Guard official who now teaches physics at Myers Park High School, Charlotte, N.C., and his mother, Linda Fisher, is a former Navy commander. Fisher's sister, Megan, 24, is a mechanical engineer for the Air Force.