The Education Committee of the Computing Research Association (CRA-E) is proud to announce two recipients of the 2019 CRA-E Undergraduate Research Faculty Mentoring Award: Jennifer Rexford from Princeton University and Westley Weimer from the University of Michigan.
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.
The 2019 selection committee includes Pat Morreale (chair, Kean University), Eric Aaron (Colby College), Chandra Krintz (University of California, Santa Barbara), and Denys Poshyvanyk (William & Mary).
Jennifer Rexford, Ph.D., is the Gordon Y.S. Wu Professor and chair of the Department of Computer Science at Princeton University, an ACM Fellow, and a member of the National Academy of Engineering. She is a CCC Council member and former CRA board member.
Rexford began her career at AT&T Research before joining Princeton University. In addition to her distinguished research career, she has actively mentored students, particularly undergraduates. Rexford established events and spaces to motivate undergraduates as researchers, and to support members of traditionally underrepresented groups in CS. In 2010, she mentored students who established a women in computer science group (PWiCS) in the department, and the group is still active.
With a smaller pool of undergraduate students, Rexford advises students both in single semester independent projects, as well as theses. She regularly publishes with undergraduate mentees, and there are multiple papers on which undergraduates were the first author. Rexford has mentored 23 undergraduate students in 10 years, half of who are women, and her mentorship has led to student placement at top graduate schools. She has mentored students who have received recognition in the CRA Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Awards as awardee, runner-up, and honorable mention, and three of her students received NSF Graduate Research Fellowships. Her students have matriculated in Ph.D. programs at MIT, University of California, Berkeley, Stanford University, and University of Washington.
The nomination letter noted that Rexford provides “office space and a support network of helpful graduate students and postdocs to conduct nonjudgmental discussions. Despite being the Department Chair of Computer Science at Princeton, she still makes time to meet personally with her undergraduate advisees, often taking out more than an hour every week for each advisee. Mentees thrive in this supportive environment, becoming highly confident in their own skin….”
Westley Weimer, Ph.D., is a professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Michigan. He is also an ACM Senior Member and a NSF CAREER awardee.
Each year, Weimer includes undergraduate students in his research group and works with them in a focused approach, providing mentoring and support in a manner similar to that given to a Ph.D. student. He has had 18 mentees in 10 years, and is known for his empathy in mentoring diverse student populations. His undergraduate mentees are often first authors on the papers that they co-author with Weimer.
His undergraduate mentees are trained on the basics of how to conduct research and work on projects, as well as communicating research results and impact. In his approach, Weimer takes the time to fully develop students, leading one student to state “he has had more impact on my career than any other person.” Several noted that the skills learned by students mentored by Weimer allowed the students to be more successful, sooner, in their Ph.D. programs as the expertise gained in “think[ing] about research: how to explore, develop, and communicate ideas” was invaluable. The one-to-one mentoring provided by Weimer to his undergraduate students is supported by the full participation of the undergraduates in research presentations, meetings, and lab activities along with graduate students. His students have matriculated in Ph.D. programs at Cornell University, Stanford University, University of Wisconsin, and University of Michigan.