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SEAS grad Pan wins undergraduate data management award

Joshua Pan, A.B. '22

Joshua Pan, A.B. '22

Joshua Pan, A.B. ‘22, recently took first place in the undergraduate research competition of the Association for Computing Machinery's Special Interest Group on Management of Data (SIGMOD) conference in Philadelphia. Pan, who studied computer science, is the sixth student from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) in the last seven years to win the SIGMOD undergraduate award.

“It was pretty thrilling,” Pan said. “It’s always good to be in a community of people who love and are interested in what you’re doing, and you can talk about anything. I’d recently finished my undergraduate studies, but all the attendees were grad students or industry people. It was really a moment to just take it all in.”

Pan won for his presentation, “Workload-Adaptive Filtering in Storage Engines,” in which he programmed a filter to increase the efficiency of a type of database known as a Log-Structured Merge-Tree based storage engine. This type of storage engine is frequently used in large applications such as social media and machine learning, in which large amounts of data are being written quickly and often. The engine stores “key value pairs,” such as a person’s name and age.

Once the data is written, it then must be accessed and read. Pan’s adaptive filter helps the storage engine avoid redundant reads and false positives, improving its overall efficiency.

“The adaptation process is based on how much data is being read at one time, and what data is being read,” he said. “Depending on those things, we can change our filter as necessary to adapt to certain workloads.”

Pan became interested in databases through his coursework with advisor Stratos Idreos, Associate Professor of Computer Science. Pan submited an abstract for the SIGMOD competition in December, then displayed a poster and presented his results at the conference in Philadelphia in June.

Now graduated, Pan is set to apply his computer science degree as a software engineer at Affirm, a financial technology company based in San Francisco.

“It’s a great way to cap my undergraduate career,” Pan said. “It was good to see how my research has progressed, and I enjoyed being able to explain and present it to people who were actually interested in it.”

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