Janabel Xia combines algorithms with dance rhythms to achieve success

Janabel Xia, a senior majoring in mathematics, epitomizes perpetual motion.

When she’s not delving into algorithms and enhancing traffic control systems for autonomous vehicles, she’s immersed in dancing as a member of multiple dance clubs. Her involvement extends to social justice groups, cryptography, web authentication technology, and a polling app enabling anonymous voting.

In her final semester, she’s accelerating her efforts, focusing on reducing urban transportation carbon footprint utilizing sensors at traffic light intersections.

Initial Strides

Raised in Lexington, Massachusetts, Janabel began engaging in math team competitions since elementary school. Her involvement revealed a passion for problem-solving beyond routine classroom exercises.

At Lexington High School, she excelled as the math team captain, participated in Math Olympiad twice, and won a silver medal for the European Girls’ Mathematical Olympiad.

Specializing in combinatorics and theoretical computer science, Janabel explored theoretical and applied cryptography as a math major. During her sophomore year, she conducted cryptanalysis research at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.

Inspired by the mathematical elegance of cryptography and its political implications, Janabel co-created the zkPoll app with students from UC Berkeley and Stanford. This app, written in the Circom programming language, fosters private polling without revealing personal data.

Diving into community engagement through the PKG Center, she advocates for food security, housing for ex-convicts, and health care access. Additionally, she contributes to Reading for Revolution, a student club addressing social issues within MIT and the Greater Boston area.

Her academic journey steers toward integrating mathematical and computational techniques into urban planning, emphasizing social justice aspects within the field.

Automated Direction

Enrolling in classes with the Department of Urban Studies and Planning, Janabel embarks on a research project under Professor Cathy Wu at the Institute for Data, Systems, and Society.

Collaborating with Professor Wu and doctoral student Vindula Jayawardana, Janabel investigates eco-driving techniques. Their study suggests that semi-autonomous vehicles communicating with intersection sensors can potentially reduce carbon emissions by up to 21%.

Janabel aims to devise an efficient sensor deployment approach at traffic intersections, proposing a phased installation plan and emphasizing emission reduction at each step.

Rhythmic Artistry

Simultaneously, Janabel actively participates in MIT’s dance clubs and teams, showcasing her talents and passion for dance.

With a background in traditional Chinese and Western dance forms, she seamlessly blends her academic and artistic pursuits, highlighting the importance of dance in her MIT experience.

Residing with fellow Dance Team members at WILG off-campus housing, Janabel appreciates the culture of independence and critical thinking fostered in that environment.

Striving to align her interests in mathematics and urban studies, Janabel envisions a career that bridges technical expertise with human-centric values.

Reflecting on her MIT journey, Janabel expresses gratitude for the diverse learning opportunities the institution offered and aspires to continue exploring new horizons throughout her life.

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