See all NewsEngineering News
Honors and Awards

Eleanor O’Rourke Receives Prestigious NSF CAREER Award

The award will support the improvement of learning and retention in introductory computer science courses

Northwestern Engineering’s Eleanor O’Rourke has received the Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award from the National Science Foundation (NSF), its most prestigious honor for junior faculty members. 

The CAREER Award is designed to support promising young faculty members who exemplify the role of teacher-scholar through the combination of outstanding research and education. 

O’Rourke is a CS+X joint faculty member, with appointments as an assistant professor of computer science in the McCormick School of Engineering and assistant professor of education and social policy in Northwestern’s School of Education and Social Policy. She will receive $597,870.00 over five years from the NSF’S Division of Information & Intelligent Systems in support of her project titled, “Towards Intelligent Learning Environments that Support the Practice of Programming.” The work will focus on improving learning and retention in introductory computer science courses by designing scalable programming environments that help students develop motivation and effective programming practices.

Through this project, O’Rourke aims to develop behavioral models to automatically detect programming practices from student interactions with the programming environment. She will leverage these behavioral models to study the relationship between students’ programming practices and their beliefs about ability in computer science, and design and evaluate novel interventions that provide feedback and guidance through the programming environment to promote motivation and effective practices. 

O’Rourke also will amplify the project’s impact through integrated education and outreach activities. In particular, she will design and lead online workshops for computer science instructors that focus on student motivations and practices.

“It is a sincere honor to receive the NSF CAREER award as it is both highly competitive and provides significant funding to support my research,” O’Rourke said. “I am very excited about this project, and it’s fantastic to hear that the NSF panelists and program officers also see value in this work.” 

O’Rourke’s research is broadly focused on understanding how technical systems can support learning. Within this space, she is interested in designing data-driven learning environments to support student motivation, provide personalized learning experiences, and support formative assessment and feedback. This research is highly interdisciplinary, bridging the fields of human-computer interaction, the learning sciences, educational psychology, and artificial intelligence to contribute to the domain of computing education research.