2018 CRA Outstanding Undergraduate Researchers Awards

Please note that some features of the nomination process have changed for the 2018 awards:

  • Nomination materials are no longer required to include information on nominees’ gender identities.
  • Each nomination includes one letter of recommendation rather than two letters.
  • Each nominee must submit a personal statement in addition to a resume and research statement.

The Program.  This award program recognizes undergraduate students in North American colleges and universities who show outstanding potential in an area of computing research.  The award is primarily about research. While it is expected that successful nominees will have excellent academic records and will have engaged in some form of service (e.g., club leadership, teaching, peer tutoring), excellence in research is the primary consideration.  

Eligibility.  Students enrolled as undergraduates in North American colleges or universities in Fall 2017 are eligible.   On the nomination form, the electronic signature of the chair/head of the home department confirms that the nominee is in good standing and eligible for the award.

Number of Nominees Per Department.  Departments that grant Ph.D.s in a computing field may nominate up to four students per year.  Departments that do not grant Ph.D.s in a computing field may nominate up to two students per year. 

Diversity.  In addition to recognizing excellence in undergraduate research, CRA is committed to broadening the participation of individuals in traditionally underrepresented groups in computing fields.  CRA recognizes that students in different academic environments have different opportunities for research.  The selection committee will consider these factors in its evaluation; nominations can describe these factors in nominees’ personal statements or recommenders’ letters.  CRA strongly encourages departments to consider all aspects of diversity when selecting their nominees.

Awards.   Up to four CRA Undergraduate Research Awards will be made each year.  Each award recipient will receive financial assistance of up to $1500 to attend a research conference of their choice.   In addition, some nominees will be designated as runners-up, finalists, and honorable mentions.  The award recipients, runners-up, finalists, and honorable mentions will be announced by e-mail in mid-December, will receive certificates of their awards, and will be recognized on CRA’s website.

What departments submit

A nomination is officially a submission on behalf of the department chair, but it may be prepared and submitted by a designated representative for the chair.  The nomination form includes a prompt to upload the following:

  • One letter of recommendation (up to three pages long) from a faculty member.  The faculty recommender need not need to be from the same department or institution as the nominee.  The letter should explain the problem that the nominee worked on,  its significance to the field and/or society, what was challenging about the work done, and – most importantly – the nominee’s contributions.  Be specific and precise, as it is critical for the awards committee to understand and evaluate the individual contributions of the nominee; if the project involved other people, it’s important that the nominee’s particular contributions to that project be described explicitly.   The letter may also address the nominee’s service (e.g., club leadership, teaching, peer tutoring) or other relevant factors.
  • Materials prepared by the student (these are described in detail in the “What students prepare” section) including:
    • A resume (up to two pages)
    • A summary of research (one page)
    • A personal statement (up to 300 words)
  • Academic transcripts

What students prepare

A nominee is expected to submit a resume, a research summary not to exceed one page in length, and a personal statement not to exceed 300 words.

Resume:  The resume should contain information on the nominee’s academic record and service, and it must indicate each research project in which the nominee has been involved.  For each such project, the resume should include:

  • a few sentences describing the project,
  • name(s) of the research mentor(s),
  • where the research was conducted,
  • complete citations of publications arising from this research (if any),
  • and, for manuscripts currently under review (if any), the titles and the venues to which they are submitted.

Research Summary:  The one-page research summary gives the nominee the opportunity to describe research project(s) in detail.  While the award committee comprises computer science professors, it’s likely that most of them will not have expertise in the specific field in which the nominee worked.  So, while one can use well-known concepts without defining them (e.g., names of data structures and terms like “NP-completeness”, “compiler”, or “k-means clustering”), one should imagine writing to a computer science professor who works in a different subdiscipline.

It’s important to explain the problem, its significance to the field and/or society, what was challenging about the work done, and – most importantly – the nominee’s contributions.  Be specific and precise, as it is critical for the awards committee to understand and evaluate the individual contributions of the nominee; if the project involved other people, it’s important that the nominee’s particular contributions to that project be described explicitly.

Personal Statement:   The personal statement (not to exceed 300 words) should address interests and activities outside of research (e.g., club leadership, teaching, peer tutoring) and/or special circumstances or adversity that the student has confronted.

Nominations due:  Friday, October 27, 2017 by 9 PM Eastern Time

Awards announced:  mid-December 2017

2018 Selection Committee

Ran Libeskind-Hadas, Harvey Mudd College, Chair
Eric Aaron, Vassar College
Pieter Abbeel, UC Berkeley
Michela Becchi, North Carolina State University
Cristina Nita-Rotaru, Northeastern University
Margo Seltzer, Harvard University
Brian Tjaden, Wellesley College

Questions and inquiries about the awards should be directed to: undergradawards@cra.org

CRA gratefully acknowledges the support of Microsoft Research and Mitsubishi Electric Research Labs who sponsor the Outstanding Undergraduate Researchers Award Program in alternate years. The 2018 award is being sponsored by Mitsubishi Electric Research Labs.

Click here to view awardees from 2017 and prior years