Amazon Robotics names initial fellowship program recipients
The fellowships are aimed at helping students from underrepresented backgrounds establish careers in robotics, engineering, computer science, and related fields.
Amazon Robotics recently announced six initial recipients of the Amazon Robotics Day One Fellowship, a program established to help students from underrepresented backgrounds pursue master of science degrees at Harvard, MIT, and Stanford.
The recipients will receive fully funded fellowships in robotics, engineering, computer science, and related fields that will cover tuition, living expenses, and other costs, a total annual commitment of $1 million.
Fellowship recipients will also have the opportunity to participate in Amazon Robotics’ internship program. During their summer at Amazon Robotics, the Fellows will connect with and receive mentorship from diverse employees and members of leadership, and have an opportunity to secure full-time positions.
“We couldn't be more pleased to offer these six fully funded fellowships for these students at prestigious universities,” said Tye Brady, chief technologist, Amazon Robotics.
The six recipients of the inaugural fellowships are:
Samantha Gutiérrez Arango, MIT: Gutiérrez Arango will be studying in the MIT Media Lab's Biomechatronics group, led by Professor Hugh Herr. She has worked at MIT as a senior research support associate with both the MIT Media Lab and the Center for Extreme Bionics on a new surgical procedure for amputees. Prior to MIT, she worked at Northeastern University, studying the behavioral effects of interactive media on children. She completed her bachelor’s in biomedical engineering at Tecnológico de Monterrey, México and is an active member of the MIT Colombian Association, leading activities to empower Latino women in the STEM field.
Aaron Brown, Stanford: Brown is pursuing a master’s of science in mechanical engineering. He worked as a mechanical engineering intern at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. There he was exposed to mechatronics, dynamics, and control while designing mechanical ground support equipment in support of small spacecraft. Brown also worked as an undergraduate researcher at Space Systems Design Studio and was on the aerodynamics subteam at Cornell’s Design Build Fly project. He graduated from Cornell in 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.
Christopher Croft, Harvard: Croft will pursue a master’s of science in data science. After graduating with a bachelor of arts degree from University of Pennsylvania, Croft obtained an internship with Independence Blue Cross’s mobile applications division, which he transitioned into a full-time role as a mobile app and web developer. After two years, he moved to a full-time position as a software engineer at Krozak Information Technologies, where he has worked on projects for the FBI, Coast Guard, and Boeing. While working at Krozak, he returned to school to complete a second bachelor’s degree in computer science at the University of Maryland.
Bianca Jurewicz, Stanford: Jurewicz will pursue a master’s in mechanical engineering. She was a senior robotic applications engineer in Eli Lilly's Global Robotics Program. She worked with FANUC, Staubli, and Kuka robots as well as a variety of 2D and 3D vision systems. Jurewicz graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 2019 where she studied mechanical engineering and Spanish with a concentration in controls and mechanical systems. She received the Pi Tau Sigma award for outstanding academic performance as well as the Clare Boothe Luce Scholarship, a merit-based full scholarship awarded to a woman in STEM interested in research.
Ivonne Martinez, Harvard: Martinez will pursue a master’s degree in data science. She graduated from the University of Texas (UT) with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and worked as a data science research intern at the University of Colorado Boulder. In addition to her degree in mathematics and a certificate in programming, she worked as a research and development intern at Trend Micro. She also spent time at UT pursuing research on autoencoders and serving as a student ambassador for the UT Austin Inventors Program.
Raechel Walker, MIT: Walker will pursue a master's degree in the MIT Media Lab's Personal Robots group, led by Professor Cynthia Breazeal. She majored in data science at the University of California, San Diego and worked as a computer science researcher at Laurel Riek's Healthcare Robotics Lab. In that role she created robotics curriculum for homebound students and designed inclusive user interfaces for those children to use telepresence robots at schools. She is a member of the National Society of Black Engineers and worked as a data science researcher in Michael Davidson's Energy Justice Lab.
“More than just paid tuition”
Brady noted that finding and supporting students from underrepresented backgrounds is an essential part of the fellowship program.
“While no single action can drive us to a better, more inclusive future, I firmly believe that a collection of consistent actions can have a big cumulative impact,” he said. “These fellowships represent action within Amazon that our future is diverse, inclusive, and accessible across every race and ethnicity, gender, origin, and community.”
In addition to the Day One Fellowship, we are also investing in STEM at the high school level and middle school levels to incentivize young women and men to pursue science and engineering. We want to inspire more kids to say, ‘Hey science and engineering is awesome and I want that to be part of my life.’
In addition, Amazon Robotics, in partnership with Black in Robotics (BiR), will facilitate networking and mentorship opportunities. BiR advocates for more diversity, inclusion, and equity within the robotics field and collaborated with Amazon Robotics to establish BiR’s first regional chapter. Fellows will be encouraged to reach out to their peers in the Day One program, regardless of where they go to school, to find opportunities to share experiences, consult with one another, and collaborate on projects.
“It’s more than just paid tuition for the student,” Brady said. “Each of the professors at the three schools is aware of the fellows that have been admitted to the other participant schools. This allows the student to expand their own network within robotics and to see how robotics is done at different institutions. We are working closely with Cynthia Breazeal at MIT, Jim Waldo at Harvard, and Monroe Kennedy at Stanford, and we are all in contact with each other.”
Looking to the future
While this year’s cohort comprises six students, there are plans to expand the program to an additional six fellows next year. The program’s ambitions extend beyond graduate-level students, as well.
“We can only realize the potential of our talent pipeline with long-term thinking. In addition to the Day One Fellowship, we are also investing in STEM at the high school level and middle school levels to incentivize young women and men to pursue science and engineering,” Brady explained. “We want to inspire more kids to say, ‘Hey science and engineering is awesome and I want that to be part of my life.’”
Brady explained that his ultimate vision is to create a viable path for underrepresented students to go from an interest in robotics to an actual career.
“My dream is the following: That somewhere out there is a middle school student who participates in a robotics camp that we helped sponsor. She realizes, ‘I can do this. I'm actually good at this. I'm going to apply to an Amazon affiliated university and study engineering.’ There, she would learn how to apply robotics and machine learning to real world problems and become a builder of cool and useful things. “She would get noticed by her professors and her university that we have a built a relationship with. We would then relay the opportunity to her to apply for our Day One Fellowship that would fully pay for her master’s degree at MIT, Harvard, or Stanford. She would accept the fellowship, become even more inspired, and upon graduation come to work at Amazon Robotics to shape the future of technology. That’s my dream — and I can’t wait for that day to happen.”