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Message from the Chair

2018-2019 Year in Retrospect

From the Chair, Sandhya Dwarkadas

2018–2019 was, as usual, a busy year. We continue to grow and had a graduating class of 168 students: 134 students graduated with a bachelor’s degree—53 BA, 81 BS; 27 with a master's degree; and7 with a doctorate degree. An additional 49 students completed a minor in computer science. Nearly half of our undergraduate students were double majors in over 20 fields. The interdisciplinary majors of data science, computational biology, computational linguistics, and digital media studies drew an additional 96 students (51 DSC, 23 BCB, 4 LIN, 18 DMS). More than 15 percent of the undergraduate senior class studied abroad. More than 20 percent of the senior class was involved in research with our faculty, as were almost all of our MS students.

I highlight some of our student, faculty, alumni, and staff accomplishments and accolades below:

Undergraduate Students

  • Jackson Abascal ’19 was selected as a “Finalist” in the Computing Research Associations’s (CRA) Outstanding Undergraduate Research Awards competition. Jackson also received a Charles L. Newton Prize and was awarded the Arthur S. Gale Memorial Prize for “greatest achievement and promise” in mathematics.
  • Sofia Carrillo ’19 received the Doris Ermine Smith Award for significant achievement in mathematics, won a Student Leader Gwennie Award, and also received the Stoddard Prize for Proficiency in mathematics.
  • Robert Gerami ’19 received the ACUI Outstanding Undergraduate Award, as well as the Josephine C. Asbury Award for commitments to the community.
  • Graeme McGuire ’19 received a Fulbright grant and will be an English Teaching Assistant at a university in the nation of Georgia.
  • Andres Ollarvez ’19 received the David Merkle Leadership Award and was a finalist in the 2019 Forbes Entrepreneurial Competition.
  • Isaac Wong ’19 received a Victoria Finnerty Award, the Grace McCormack Award, and an Undergraduate Research Expo Dean’s Award.
  • Qiuyue Sun ’20 was selected as an “Honorable Mention” in the Computing Research Association’s (CRA) Outstanding Undergraduate Research Awards competition.
  • Samuel Triest ’20, advised by Yuhao Zhu, was a gold medalist in the ACM student research competition (SRC) at the 24th ACM International Conference on Architectural Support for Programming Languages and Operating Systems (ASPLOS).

Graduate Students

  • PhD student Parker Riley, supervised by Professor Daniel Gildea, was awarded the Donald M. and Janet C. Barnard Fellowshi in recognition of his strong research record, as well as his clear commitment to mentoring, outreach, and service to the department and the field.
  • PhD student Andrew Read-McFarland was awarded the Edward Peck Curtis Award for Excellence in Teaching by a Graduate Student in recognition of his excellent service as a TA.
  • PhD student Louis Jenkins was awarded the DoE Computational Science Graduate Fellowship.
  • PhD student Sam Lerman received an Honorable Mention in the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program Competition.
  • While many of our graduate students continue their cutting edge research on campus, the summer of 2019 showed a particularly wide range of internship placements, including Adobe, Affectiva, Amazon, ARM, ByteDance, Facebook, Google, Innopeak Technology, Kwai, Megagon Labs, Micro Focus, Microsoft, MIT LL MSR Asia, NEC Labs, Nvidia, PingAn Health America, PNNL, Samsung, Snap, Tencent AI Lab (China), Uber, and VMware.

Students in the Community

We continue to maximize our participation in the BRAID (Building, Recruiting, and Inclusion for Diversity) initiative—now going into its sixth year—to support community-building endeavors, including sending students to the Grace Hopper Conference for Women in Computing, the Lesbians Who Tech+Allies Summit, and the National Society of Black Engineers annual convention. Our Women in Computing group, URWiC, started an official Girls Who Code chapter, which works with local high schools. Every week, at least five volunteers go to a local library to help teach high school girls from the city of Rochester the basics of programming. URWiC also continues their engagement with the local Girl Scouts chapter. Our CS Undergraduate Council (CSUG) continues to provide free tutoring and peer advising for any student in need. We are proud of our students’ community-building efforts!


This fall, we welcome Fatemeh Nargesian to the ranks of our tenure-track faculty and Adam Purtee to our teaching faculty. (See page 10 of the 2019 Multicast issue)

Our faculty were particularly active externally, with four individuals on sabbatical this past year! Lane Hemaspaandra traveled to Switzerland and Germany (supported by an Alexander Humboldt Foundation award), Jiebo Luo was at Tencent and Futurewei, Ji Liu at Tencent as well, and Henry Kautz served as the director of the Division of Information and Intelligent Systems at the National Science Foundation (NSF). Henry is also the recipient of the 2018 ACM-AAAI Allen Newell Award for “contributions to artificial intelligence and computational social science, including fundamental results on the complexity of inference, planning, and media analytics for public health.” Jiebo Luo was named an AAAI fellow and also received the IEEE Region 1 Technological Innovation (Academic) Award for his contributions in computer vision and data mining. Three of us—Wendi Heinzelman, Jiebo, and I—were among the 56 newly elected 2018 ACM fellows, for contributions to “wireless communication systems and protocols and leadership in broadening participation in computing,” “multimedia content analysis and social multimedia informatics,” and “shared memory and reconfigurability,” respectively.

Within the University, Michael Scott received the 2018 Hajim Lifetime Achievement Award for his many accomplishments and contributions as the “quintessential professor.” George Ferguson was voted Professor of the Year by the Students’ Association. Computer science major Gebri Mishtaku ’21 says, “Professor Ferguson is as intellectually challenging as he is understanding and caring of one's life goals . . . making him a teaching superstar in my eyes.” Zhen Bai and Ted Pawlicki received the University’s Sykes Engineering Faculty Award for courses in AR/VR interaction design and quantum computing respectively. Yuhao Zhu received a collaborative University Research Award to investigate support for deep neural network computations in the optical domain. Muthu Venkitasubramaniam also received a collaborative University Research Award to study secure genomic data analyses in critically ill infants.


In alumni news, Danny Sabbah ’82 (PhD) received the 2019 Hajim Distinguished Alumnus award. Danny is the former CTO and general manager of the Next Generation Platform at IBM Corporation, and current principal consultant at DSabbah LLC. In the fall of 2018, Matthew Boutell ’05 (PhD), Andrea Salgian ’01 (PhD), and Xipeng Shen ’06 (PhD) were promoted to full professor at Rose-Human Institute of Technology, the College of New Jersey, and North Carolina State University respectively. Nasrin Mostafazadeh ’17 (PhD) was named to Forbes Magazine’s 2019 “30 under 30 in Science” for her work on storytelling and commonsense reasoning.

Administrative Staff

Among our excellent staff, undergraduate manager Brynn Wilkins won a Department Coordinator and Leader Award at the Career Center’s third annual Gwennies award ceremony for her partnership with them. This last year also saw growth and changes in our staff to help with our growing student population. Emily Tevens joined the team as the master’s program coordinator. Danielle Vander Horst joined the team of undergraduate coordinators. Jenna Price replaced Vanessa Phengsomphane as the department coordinator. 

It has been a challenging, fulfilling, and fantastic year all around!