2023 CS Annual Award Winners

Each academic year, Northwestern CS honors faculty, staff, and students who provided exceptional service to the department or excelled in research projects.

“I acknowledge all the amazing work in the department this year,” said Samir Khuller, Peter and Adrienne Barris Chair of Computer Science at Northwestern Engineering. “Many folks are doing noteworthy work, and these awards are a way to recognize just a small fraction of the individuals who contribute to making this a great department.”

Xinyu Xing, associate professor of computer science at the McCormick School of Engineering, chaired the awards committee, which also included Andrew Crotty, assistant professor of computer science; Branden Ghena, assistant professor of instruction; Sara Owsley Sood, Chookaszian Family Teaching Professor of Instruction and associate chair for undergraduate education; Xiao Wang, assistant professor of computer science, and Katie Winters, business administrator.

Staff Hero: Wynante Charles

Wynante CharlesFaculty Affairs Coordinator Wynante Charles earned a Staff Hero Award for her outstanding support throughout the faculty search process. She efficiently coordinated 40 candidate visits during the hiring cycle this academic year. Her meticulous attention to detail and exceptional organizational skills ensured smooth trips and a personalized experience for candidates.

“Wynante’s dedication to creating a welcoming atmosphere for visitors was highly appreciated,” a nominator said. “Her exemplary service, commitment, and invaluable contributions to the department deserve recognition.”

Instructor of the Year: Joseph Hummel

Joseph HummelProfessor of Instruction Joseph Hummel was honored for his excellence in teaching COMP_SCI 211: Fundamentals of Computer Programming II. Nominators noted that course assignments were both engaging and valuable. He fostered a supportive and inclusive environment, and his expertise and commitment were highly praised.

“Joe’s dedication to students' learning was evident through his responsiveness and use of effective technologies,” a nominator said.

Additionally, Hummel revamped the high-demand course COMP_SCI 310: Scalable Software Architectures and updated a related offering for the technical core curriculum of the MBAi Program, a joint master’s degree program through Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management and Northwestern Engineering.

Faculty Service Award: Fabián Bustamante

Fabián BustamanteFabián Bustamante, professor of computer science and codirector of graduate admissions, was recognized with the Faculty Service Award for his service as an exceptional chair of the graduate community and his oversight of the challenging task of admissions coordination.

“He consistently helps the committee understand admissions goals and effectively coordinates efforts within and beyond the award committee,” a nominator said. “Fabian's leadership, communication, and coordination skills have greatly contributed to the successful execution of the admissions process.”

Research Mentor Awards: Jessica Hullman and Eleanor O'Rourke

(l to r): Jessica Hullman and Eleanor O'RourkeJessica Hullman, Ginni Rometty Professor and associate professor of computer science, earned the Research Mentor Award for her dedication to students. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Hullman assisted students with emergency relocations and research paper submissions.

Under her guidance, Hullman’s students published original papers, secured research internships, and achieved success at top conferences. In addition, her commitment to diversity in research has led to students gaining faculty positions at prestigious universities.

Eleanor O'Rourke, an assistant professor of computer science at the McCormick School of Engineering and of learning sciences in the School of Education and Social Policy, was also honored with the Research Mentor Award for providing her students timely guidance, maintaining organization and structure, and promoting reflection on progress.

“With a perfect balance between challenging and guiding, Nell encourages independent thinking while offering assistance when needed,” a nominator said. “Nell's openness to diverse research directions and her efforts to foster community make her an exceptional adviser.”

PhD Student Research Award: Vaidehi Srinivas

Vaidehi SrinivasVaidehi Srinivas, a second-year computer science PhD student in the Northwestern Computer Science Theory Group, received a 2023 Presidential Fellowship, the most prestigious fellowship awarded to graduate students by Northwestern University.

Srinivas has published papers in prestigious conferences, including the 54th Annual Association for Computing Machinery Symposium on Theory of Computing and 36th Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems. Most recently, she submitted a single-authored paper to the 64th Annual Symposium on Foundations of Computer Science (FOCS 2023) on algorithms for dynamic data structures with predictions, a notable contribution in learning-augmented algorithms.

Srinivas is advised by Aravindan Vijayaraghavan, associate professor of computer science and (by courtesy) industrial engineering and management sciences at Northwestern Engineering.

Student Heroes: Avery Keare and Dilan Nair

(l to r): Avery Keare and Dilan NairAvery Keare, a fourth-year computer science student in Northwestern’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, was instrumental in the launch the Northwestern Tech Ethics Initiative, a student-driven effort to prioritize the ethical dimensions of computer science and reframe technology and ethics as a singular whole within CS education. Keare helped build and lead a student team of Tech Ethics Mentors and Fellows to develop, guide, and implement the program. She also developed a resource hub for ethics pedagogy.

Dilan Nair earned the Student Hero Award for his exceptional efforts to build and support the CS community. A peer mentor and member of the WildHacks organizing team, Nair was also a technical lead for Mayfest and host of the Northwestern Discord server.

Nair built Paper.NU, an online tool that aims to help Northwestern students streamline the course planning process. The system allows students to search for and drag-and-drop courses — compiled from CAESAR — into a four-year interface organized by academic quarter. Multiple plans and schedules can be saved and shared via a URL, which updates as the plan is modified.

CS Outstanding Seniors

In addition to honoring outstanding academic achievement, the department also recognizes the following graduating computer science students for their impactful contributions outside of the classroom.

Students earning a bachelor of science in Computer Science through Northwestern Engineering:

  • Maya Blumovitz – “For contributions to curriculum and leadership in the Northwestern CS community as both a dedicated peer mentor and a Tech Ethics Fellow for COMP_SCI 111: Fundamentals of Computer Programming I.”
  • Amil Dravid – “For contributions to research in computer vision and machine learning. In addition to being a peer mentor and teaching a student-led course on deep learning, Amil has authored nine publications.”
  • Grace Liu – “For leadership in the Northwestern CS community. Grace served as president of Women in Computing during the 2022-23 academic year and has been a dedicated peer mentor for CS courses.”
  • Liam O'Carroll – “For contributions to research in theoretical computer science. Liam has been actively engaged in research since his second year at Northwestern – including some projects that led to publications – in addition to consistently contributing to theory courses as a peer mentor.”
  • Antonio Rocha – “For leadership in the Northwestern CS community. Antonio served as president of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers during the 2022-23 academic year and has been an encouraging and supportive peer mentor for CS courses.”

Students earning a bachelor of arts in Computer Science through Northwestern’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences:

  • Amy Guo – “For leadership in the Northwestern CS community. As director of WildHacks the last two years, Guo brought our community together and enabled new connections.”
  • Avery Keare – “For contributions to the Northwestern CS curriculum that will have a lasting impact on future generations of students.”
  • Li Kang Tan – “For contributions to the Northwestern CS curriculum. Li served as an invaluable peer mentor for several courses across the curriculum, ranging from intro to systems to privacy, and played a critical role in the development of course material.”

The department award winners will be honored during the End of Year Awards Celebration event on Thursday, June 1, from 1 to 4 p.m. at the lawn north of Mudd Hall.

McCormick News Article