The Education Committee of the Computing Research Association (CRA-E) is proud to announce three recipients of the 2023 CRA-E Undergraduate Research Faculty Mentoring Award: Nanette Veilleux from Simmons University, William Wang from University of California, Santa Barbara, and Yi-Chieh (Jessica) Wu from Harvey Mudd College.
These outstanding individuals are being recognized for providing exceptional mentorship, undergraduate research experiences, and, in parallel, guidance on admission and matriculation of their students to research-focused graduate programs in computing.
Nanette Veilleux is a professor in the Computer Science and Informatics department at Simmons University. Her research interests include primary research in computational models of speech, as well as investigations of pedagogical methods in STEM education. She has received multiple awards and honors, including Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, Fulbright U.S. Scholar Award and many others. She currently serves as a principal investigator on one collaborative NSF funded grant.
Veilleux has mentored over 450 undergraduate students at Simmons. Among those, 15 mentored students entered graduate research programs at Rice University, Northeastern University, Boston University, Brandeis, Dartmouth and London School of Economics and Political Science among others. She advises research projects for students who are interested in graduate school, helps students who want to enter the workforce to find jobs, and keeps in touch with Simmons alumni, all while continuing to inspire new undergraduates to pursue Computer Science. She engages with her students as people, not just as students, and works to understand their unique strengths, motivations, and challenges. Veilleux reaches beyond the classroom to connect her students to projects that will broaden their interests and experiences. She has been tireless in her efforts to recruit and retain women in the field of Computer Science, going out of her way to expose students to subject matter they may not have previously considered. Her passion for her teaching and her research has had a real impact across students and faculty at Simmons.
William Wang is an Associate Professor at the Computer Science Department at UC Santa Barbara (UCSB). He is also the Mellichamp Chair in Artificial Intelligence and Designs and Director of UCSB’s Center for Responsible Machine Learning. He co-directs the campus academic initiative on Mind and Machine Intelligence and the Natural Language Processing group. Since his arrival at UCSB in 2016, he has received many prestigious national and international awards, including the 2021 NSF CAREER Award, 2020 IEEE Intelligent Systems’ AI’s 10 to Watch, 2019 CVPR Best Student Paper Award, 2018 DARPA Young Faculty Award, and more than 10 faculty awards from Google, Amazon, Facebook, Intel, JP Morgan, Adobe, and IBM.
Wang has mentored over 60 undergraduate students at UCSB, including 13 female and under-represented students. Among those, 32 mentored students entered a graduate research program in computing, and 12 were enrolled into top Ph.D. programs at Carnegie Mellon, UIUC, Duke, ETH, Michigan, UPenn, UCSB, and USC. His undergraduate students have published 23 top conference papers, and among those, four undergraduate student, first-authored papers have independently reached 100+ citations in three years; one was included in the graduate curriculum at Stanford and Princeton. His undergraduate students have received major awards, including two Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence in Undergraduate Research, three CRA Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Award finalists and two honorable mentions, an NSF Graduate Fellowship in Machine Learning, a Siebel Fellowship, a Google Lime Scholarship, and a Tirrell Award for Distinction in Undergraduate Research.
Yi-Chieh (Jessica) Wu is an Associate Professor of Computer Science at Harvey Mudd College (HMC). Her research develops and applies computational and mathematical models to study evolutionary biology. Currently, she focuses on reconstructing gene histories across multiple species, with the goal of understanding differences within and across species, particularly in how genes form and function. She is the recipient of the prestigious 2018 NSF Faculty Early Career Development grant: “CAREER: Algorithms for Gene Family Evolution with Gene Duplication, Loss, and Coalescence”. Within HMC and her department, Wu stands out as an exceptionally productive scholar in terms of both the impact of her work and also her ability to meaningfully involve undergraduates in her research.
Wu has consistently provided students with high-quality, high-impact research experiences. She has mentored 29 undergraduate research students since joining the Harvey Mudd faculty in 2014, 28 of whom have already graduated and 10 of whom have gone on to PhD programs at schools including MIT, UC Berkeley, University of Washington, and Penn, among others. A total of 18 students were co-authors on nine distinct papers, some of which appear in the top venues in computational biology. Wu’s passion for undergraduate research mentoring extends beyond her own research program by empowering other faculty to become better undergraduate research mentors. She has served as faculty mentoring coordinator for the CS department and currently serves as Director of the HMC Postdoctoral Program in Interdisciplinary Computation (PIC). The PIC program provides postdoctoral scholars with an opportunity to pursue in-depth research and novel pedagogical methods while gaining the experience and preparation necessary for teaching, conducting research with undergraduate students, and promoting diversity and inclusion at a small liberal arts college.
The 2023 selection committee includes Monica Anderson (University of Alabama), Gary Holness (Clark University), Tijana Milenkovic (University of Notre Dame) and Denys Poshyvanyk (Chair, William & Mary).