Department Awards for Excellence in Teaching for 2016-17

Each year, the Department of Computer Science awards outstanding professors, instructors, and teaching assistants for the ingenuity, intelligence, thoughtfulness, and care that they bring to the classroom. This year, awardees have been recognized for their dedication, love of science, and the ways that they help to make the department one of the best at the University of Maryland. Assistant Professor Marine Carpuat, Senior Lecturer Nelson Padua-Perez, and Senior Lecturer Fawzi Emad, served on the award committee.

Congratulations to the recipients of this year’s awards!

Professor of the year:

Professor V.S. Subrahmanian taught CMSC 420: Data Structures. His nomination letters continually praise him for his ability to balance the demands of his research with teaching. They also praise his knowledge, dynamism, and ability to bring the 'real world' into the classroom.

“While he certainly prioritizes his research, it is evident that a lot of time and effort goes into the material. I have been fully engrossed in every one of his lectures. He is a dynamic speaker and makes liberal use of examples - visually showing each step of a concept - hammering the lessons home. I am a huge proponent of his focus on real-world applications of the material. For the class project he gave us a real-world dataset and gradually exposed us to methods to develop better models to interpret the information. This project made a great interview talking point.”

“Beyond his outstanding ability to teach, VS is just a really nice and approachable guy. He treats his students with respect and encourages class discussion. One last example of his supernatural ability to blow minds: VS has an extraordinary ability to improvise lectures. He normally teaches with power point controller in one hand and a marker in the other. Power point not working due to technical difficulties? No problem! He can teach an entire lecture off the top of his head with just diagrams and abstractions without losing any bit of clarity. Just yesterday, in fact, he was asked to explain what "Integer Programming" is. Well, lo and behold, in 15 minutes of wisdom, "Integer Programming" was imprinted in the minds of everyone in the classroom.”

Instructor of the year:

Larry Herman taught CMSC 132: Object-Oriented Programming II.  While praising him for his careful, well-prepared lectures, students also noted Herman’s dedication to them and his work to ensure a positive learning environment.

“Most thorough and dedicated teacher I've ever had the pleasure of learning under.”

“The thorough manner in which he explains and introduces a topic is something that has helped me this semester. In addition the explanation, the examples he uses help me clarify what I think I know. And although he does all this he is still really concise with his explanation.”

“I feel like he genuinely cares about his students and his lectures are always energetic and charismatic.”

“Just a fantastic lecturer who put lots of effort into his examples and code and is knowledgeable to everything java. Writes tests that cover to an appropriate depth. Overall entertaining and fun class”

“He gives very good lectures that really help clarify abstract/difficult concepts.”

Undergraduate TA of the year:

Alexandra McKay served as an undergraduate TA for CMSC132: Object Oriented Programming II. Students praise her ability to make complex material more accessible to students, her clarity, her energy, and her ability to understand students.

“She understands that a lot of the material can be very complex for students, so makes sure students understands by telling the class to close our eyes and raise our hand if we still don't understand the material. If any single one raises his/her hand, she will review the material to make sure people understand. She is very clear with her teaching style, and full of energy and provides great and reasonable analogies to help facilitate learning of the material.”

“Alex goes above and beyond to make sure ALL students understand the material from class. Her explanations are simple and understandable in a class where the concepts are difficult. Her techniques have helped me study as well as inspired me to find better ways to remember and understand important material.”

“She always tries to make herself available, and really puts herself into the mindset of her students to pinpoint why her students are confused. She is not condescending and rude like other TAs, and really makes Computer Science something intuitive.”

“The nicest and most helpful TA in the world, actually cares deeply about her students and isn't just doing the job for the money! Super genuine and one of the sweetest, most chill persons in the world!”

Graduate TA of the year:

Ashton Webster served as a TA for CMSC 414: Computer and Network Security.  In his nomination letters he is praised for his preparedness, helpfulness, and ability to guide students to the right answers on problems.

“Ashton spends countless hours preparing for this course, responding to Piazza questions, creating grading programs to help students get feedback sooner and keep grading consistent.”

“Ashton is on top of things for this course. He checks Piazza often, to the point that if I click on a question answered or endorsed by an instructor, the instructor is most likely Ashton. He also provides extremely helpful responses to guide us through problems we're having (without telling us what to do) or at least gives us a good base to start with in order to figure it out. If there is something he doesn't know (from course topics to project description clarifications), he finds out and responds as soon as he can. Ashton is an amazing resource for this class, and he is always eager to help, friendly, and approachable.”


The Department welcomes comments, suggestions and corrections.  Send email to editor [at] cs [dot] umd [dot] edu.