Fulbright scholar chooses Tacoma to launch his dreams

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Daniel Kristiyanto, the recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship from Indonesia, is studying big data at UW Tacoma's Institute of Technology.

Daniel KristiyantoDaniel Kristiyanto, like many children, had dreams of one day becoming an astronaut. He recalls being with his friends and pretending to be NASA employees, saying, “Houston, we have a problem.” However, while Daniel and his pals were acting out their astronaut dreams, they were quite far from Houston; they were in the middle of Central Java, Indonesia, flanked on either side by the Indian Ocean and the Java Sea.

Kristiyanto is a recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship in the Fulbright Indonesia Research Science and Technology (FIRST) Program, and only one of 20 University of Washington graduate students from Indonesia. The FIRST Program awards scholarships to Indonesian students studying, teaching, or conducting research in the fields of science and technology. Kristiyanto is applying his scholarship to a Master of Science in Computer Science and Systems degree at the University of Washington Tacoma.

A Long Way from Home

After a 28-hour trip from his home in Indonesia, where he worked as a computer engineer at Satya Wacana Christian University in Salatiga, Central Java, Kristiyanto landed in Tacoma to begin his research. He was no stranger to hard work and long hours: he was a full-time student while working full-time as an engineer in Indonesia. “Yes, I was busy,” he says, “but it gave me a chance to apply what I learned.”

Upon entrance to UW Tacoma’s Institute of Technology, Daniel spent his first quarter adjusting to his new life. “The whole experience was, of course, a culture shock,” he admits. He learned how to speak English mostly through music and movies, so he acquired the nuances of socializing with Americans by “making friends and making jokes.”

Finding a niche

He found at UW Tacoma a diverse and exciting mix of national and international graduate students at the Institute, and classes that kept him on his toes. “It’s very competitive and it’s very challenging. If it were easy then why would I be here?” He also appreciates the variety of teaching styles and approachability of his professors. After settling in, he joined Bioinformatics, a research group in the Institute led by Professor Ka Yee Yeung.

This research group focuses on analyzing big data in biology, such as the Library of Integrated Network-based Cellular Signatures (LINCS) data. Some of the projects aim to make advancements in drug discovery and personalized medicine by leveraging machine learning and other tools, especially for cancer patients.

Analyzing big data proved to be computationally intensive, and it inspired Daniel to work with the back-end infrastructure, too. His capstone project now focuses on building a cloud-based infrastructure to provide robust and scalable computing resources for big data analytics. 

Originally set to return to Indonesia at the end of this school year, Kristiyanto will now continue his studies at UW Tacoma for 2015-16, thanks to a tuition waiver from the State of Washington. He is now seeking out volunteer experiences working with children and computer science education. “I would encourage people at UW Tacoma to apply for a Fulbright scholarship or study abroad program because it really helps to open our minds to what’s going on outside,” he says. “Having a study abroad experience is totally life-changing, and not just academically.” Daniel hopes to continue his education and eventually pursue a Ph.D.

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Written by: 
Rachel Ervin / May 27, 2015
Media contact: 

John Burkhardt, UW Tacoma Communications, 253-692-4536 or johnbjr@uw.edu