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Mizzou doctoral student honored among all graduate students on campus

Peng Zhuang demonstrates the iPhone app he created for Newsy.com, a feature that allows users to access the site from their phones. The app was featured in the Apple app store and ranked #5 in the News category.

Computer Science doctoral student Peng Zhuang received the 2010 Donald K. Anderson Graduate Research Assistant Award for his research on sensor and mobile networks. He was chosen among all nominated graduate students on campus.

The award is given for “demonstrated excellence and lasting impact through contributions to research, future promise as a researcher, originality, imagination, satisfactory progress toward a degree and research mentoring to peers,” according to the MU Graduate School Web site.

Zhuang began his research in 2006 when he entered the doctoral program after graduating undergraduate from Beijing Institute of Technology and completing a master’s degree at MU.

His sensor network research got him interested in the iPhone, and he and his team won the Reynolds Journalism Institute iPhone application contest last year. His team’s app, called “NearBuy,” allows users to search houses for sale in their area. The app was ranked eighth in the Apple App Store and had half a million downloads.

Zhuang then developed an app for Newsy.com, a Web site that presents and analyzes world news from a variety of video sources. Zhuang’s app enabled users to access the site, which wasn’t initially available on the iPhone. Apple selected Zhuang’s Newsy app as its feature app, and it was ranked number five in the App Store. Zhuang also developed a Newsy app for the iPad.

After he was nominated for the Anderson Award, Zhuang got letters of recommendation from professors he has worked with, both in engineering and journalism.

“It was a really good thing to work with people from other schools,” he said. “I got a perspective of what a real world project should be like.”

Zhuang said he also did a lot of research on global computing.

“A lot of phones have GPS but indoors you can’t get a GPS signal,” he said. He proposed research to use the features on a mobile phone along with Wifi hotspot information to locate users indoors.

After he completes his doctorate this month, Zhuang plans to move to California to begin his job at Google and start a career in mobile computing.

Not only does the Anderson award provide financial assistance and look good on a resume, but Zhuang said he appreciates it for allowing him to be an example for others in his field.