Niki Vazou and Thomas Gilray finish Victor Basili Postdoctoral Fellowship

The inaugural Victor Basili Postdoctoral Fellows for the past two years, Niki Vazou and Thomas Gilray, have finished their time in the department and will be starting academic careers. Vazou has been named an assistant research professor at IMDEA Software in Madrid, Spain. She received a Ph.D in computer science from the University of California San Diego under the direction of Professor Ranjit Jhala in 2016. Gilray has been named an assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Alabama, Birmingham.  Before starting his fellowship at the University of Maryland in late summer of 2016, Gilray received a Ph.D in computer science in August that same year from the University of Utah under the direction of Professor Matthew Might.

While at UMD, both Vazou and Gilray worked closely with members of the Lab for Programming Languages at the University of Maryland (PLUM). Vazou worked with Assistant Professor David Van Horn, Professor Jeff Foster and Professor Michael Hicks; Gilray worked primarily with Van Horn. Both fellows appreciated the freedom afforded by the Basili funds, as they were given the flexibility to pursue a variety of projects.

“A normal post-doc gets assigned to a particular project. But here I had a lot of freedom to do what I wanted. I didn’t have to drop what I was working on, and I could start new things. I had lots of flexibility to branch out and explore new ideas. Collaborations I started will continue,” said Thomas Gilray.

"I knew I wanted to keep working on what I was doing before. But I still did new things in line with work I was interested in  on verification. It was easy to collaborate with the PLUM group — lots of opportunities for interaction,” added Niki Vazou.

Both fellows also taught undergraduate courses during their time in the department. Gilray taught CMSC 430, Compilers, during the fall semester of 2017 and he pushed the class in a different direction from its standard offering. During the same semester, Vazou piloted a new class, CMSC 498V on Advanced Functional Programming with Haskell. They both co-taught CMSC 330, Organization of Programming Languages, during the spring semester 2018 with Professor Hicks and Instructor Anwar Mamat. 

"Teaching both classes were a highlight of being here. Being able to construct a new project and methodology for the class was great. I got a lot of confidence about teaching and that helped interviewing,” Gilray said. 

Of her time teaching CMSC 498V Vazou said, “I really liked the Haskell class. It helped that mostly the top undergrads from UMD were in the class. Teaching a class definitely helps you give better talks and have more confidence.” She added, “For 330, it was great to work with an experienced team. It was a different experience lecturing in such a huge room. I wish I could have contributed more!”

Both fellows reflected on learning valuable lessons while being a part of the Basili program. Vazou said, “You have to learn how to stop, and say no. The transition from Ph.D to postdoc means doing many more things." Giray said, “Figuring out how to collaborate better and multi-task better were key goals [for me], and I think I improved. I learned: Don't [wait] on the concrete things to do and don’t infinitely put off the more nebulous things that are very important. Good lesson for real life.”

The second set of Basili Fellows, Robert Rand and Leonidas Lampropoulos, will be starting their posts in Fall 2018.

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