CRA Outstanding Undergraduate Researchers

This award program recognizes undergraduate students in North American colleges and universities who show outstanding research potential in an area of computing research.

Eligible nominees are enrolled as undergraduates in a North American college or university throughout the academic year September 2016 to May 2017. They must be nominated by two faculty members, and the chair / head of their home department must sign the cover letter to confirm they are in good standing and eligible for the award.

Departments which grant Ph.D.s in one of the computing fields may nominate up to two male and two female students per year. Departments which do not grant Ph.D.s in one of the computing fields may nominate up to one male and one female student per year.

There will be up to one female and one male winner from Ph.D. granting departments and up to one female and one male winner from non-Ph.D.-granting departments.

A small number of other outstanding candidates will be recognized as Runners-Up and Finalists. All nominees whose work is considered to be exemplary are recognized with Honorable Mentions.

The four winning awardees will receive financial assistance of up to $1500 to attend a research conference of their choice.

The winners, runners-up, finalists and honorable mentions will receive appropriate recognition as well.

Guidelines For Nominators (Letters of Support)

The CRA 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, peer tutoring, undergraduate teaching assistant, or others), excellence in research is the primary consideration.

Please submit two nominating letters from faculty members (two-page maximum per letter). The faculty members providing nominating letters do not need to be from the same department or institution as the nominee. A nomination package must not contain more than two nominating letters. Only letters from the two nominators listed in the nomination form will be considered.

At least one nominating letter should be from a research mentor. This letter must clearly explain the nominee’s intellectual contributions to the research project(s). Nominations in which these contributions are described explicitly have the best chance of being recognized with an award. For example, did the nominee develop a new algorithm, prove a theorem, devise and implement experiments, build a system, analyze data?  Describe the creativity of the nominee’s work and their initiative. If the nominee co-authored (and/or presented) a paper, please describe their contributions to that work.

At least one nominating letter should also address other aspects that will be considered in the competition including community service, leadership, and any special circumstances or challenges that the nominee overcame, if relevant.

Guidelines For Nominees (Resume and Research Summary)

The resume should contain information on the nominee’s academic record and service and must indicate each research project in which the nominee has been involved.  For each such project, give at least a few sentences of description, indicate the research mentor, and where the research was conducted.  If any publications came from this research, provide a complete citation.  Papers that are currently under review should also be listed and indicate where the paper was submitted.

The one-page research summary is your opportunity to describe your 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 you worked.  So, while you can use well-known concepts without defining them (e.g., names of data structures and terms like “NP-completeness”, “compiler”, or “k-means clustering”), imagine that you’re writing to a computer science professor who works in a different subdiscipline from yours.

It’s important that you explain the problem, why it’s important to the field and/or to society, what was challenging about the work that you did, and – most importantly – what you contributed to that work.  It’s critical that the awards committee can discern your specific contributions.

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 2017 award is being sponsored by Microsoft Research.

Click here to view the 2017 winners and earlier years.

The 2017 selection committee:

Eric Aaron, Vassar College (Chair)
Michela Becchi, University of Missouri
Rajiv Gandhi, Rutgers University, Camden
Dan Grossman, University of Washington
Sorelle Friedler, Haverford College
Walter Lasecki, University of Michigan
Christina Nita-Rotaru, Northeastern University

Questions and inquiries about the awards should be directed to:

  • The deadline for nominations was Monday, October 24, 2016 at midnight ET