Alum Rajiv Gandhi Receives 2022 ACM-SIGACT Distinguished Service Award

He was honored for outstanding contributions to mentoring and teaching students from different, often non-traditional backgrounds.
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University of Maryland alum Rajiv Gandhi (Ph.D. ’03, computer science; advisor: Samir Khuller) received the 2022 SIGACT Distinguished Service Award for outstanding contributions to mentoring and teaching a large number of high-school and undergraduate students from many different, often non-traditional backgrounds—empowering them to achieve substantially in theoretical computer science and to take an appreciation for theoretical computer science into their other computing endeavors.

Gandhi, a professor of computer science at Rutgers University-Camden, established the Program in Algorithmic and Combinatorial Thinking for high school students in 2010. Since 2011, the program has taken place at Princeton University and has been attracting students from all over the U.S. and beyond. The program has grown from a handful of students to nearly 200 students each year and has inspired many of them to go on to undergraduate and graduate study in the theory of computing or other careers in computing. 

Gandhi has also worked closely with and mentored students in India at schools whose students have not typically gone on to graduate study. A number of these students have since gone on to strong Computer Science Ph.D. programs in the U.S., with some of them continuing on to Computer Science faculty positions and research lab positions.

Gandhi takes a special interest in working one-on-one with undergraduates at Rutgers University-Camden. Until 2009 almost no computer science student at Rutgers University-Camden went to graduate school. Since 2009, many Rutgers University-Camden students mentored by Gandhi have gone to strong Ph.D. programs in computer science, received awards such as the Computing Research Association's Outstanding Undergraduate Research Award and National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships, and obtained computer science postdoctoral and faculty positions. 

Notably, many of these students came from nontraditional and disadvantaged backgrounds and had not already been recognized as academic stars. Gandhi has spent an incredible amount of time understanding each student, inspiring them to pursue academics seriously, working closely with them on research, and mentoring them.

Gandhi’s primary research area is applied algorithms with a focus on approximation algorithms for NP-hard problems—particularly those with applications in areas such as scheduling, wireless networks, communication networks, clustering and other related areas. 

He was previously named to the UMD Department of Computer Science’s Alumni Hall of Fame and received the Provost’s Teaching Award, the Warren I. Susman Award for Excellence in Teaching and the Chancellor's Award for Civic Engagement from Rutger’s University.

This article contains content provided by SIGACT.


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