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Lenore Cowen and Samir Khuller Receive the 2020 CRA-E Undergraduate Research Faculty Mentoring Award


The Education Committee of the Computing Research Association (CRA-E) is proud to announce two recipients of the 2020 CRA-E Undergraduate Research Faculty Mentoring Award: Lenore Cowen from Tufts University and Samir Khuller from Northwestern University.

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.

CowenLenore Cowen is a full professor in the Department of Computer Science at Tufts University, where she leads a group of faculty and students in the study of Computational Biology. She received her Ph.D. degree in applied mathematics from MIT in 1993 and her B.A. degree in mathematics from Yale in 1987. She received multiple awards over her career including ONR Young Investigator Award, Robert S. Pond Teaching Award and a prestigious NSF Postdoctoral Fellowship among others.

Cowen is passionate about teaching students the interdisciplinary skills necessary to be successful researchers in computational biology or more generally data science. Her mentoring style is very hands on: she works hard to help students understand the entire research process from beginning to end. She challenges students by asking them true research questions. As the nomination letter mentions “students can better understand what graduate-level research will look like and make an informed decision about whether or not they will enjoy it.” She has mentored 19 undergraduate students since 2002, integrating them into interdisciplinary computational science research and publishing extensively with them as co-authors. Her mentees have been recognized in the CRA Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Awards as runner-up and honorable mention awardees, and three of her students received NSF Graduate Research Fellowships. Her students have matriculated in Ph.D. programs at MIT, Princeton, University of Washington, University of Southern California, Brown, Rice, and
University of Maryland.

KhullerSamir Khuller is currently the Barris professor and chair of Computer Science within the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Northwestern University. He is professor emeritus in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Maryland. He received his Ph.D. degree in computer science from Cornell in 1990, his M.S. degree in computer science from Cornell in 1989 and his B.S. degree in computer science and engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology in 1986.  He received multiple awards over his career, including the Test of Time Award from European Symposium on Algorithms in 2016, Distinguished Scholar Teacher Award in 2007 and NSF CAREER among others.

Khuller has been passionate about the professional and personal development of students of all levels with his mentorship of undergraduate students being particularly notable. As his nomination letter writer notes: “I can attest first-hand to the many hours he devotes to his students and to the numerous ways that he inspires, motivates, and nurtures their growth.” The nomination letter also notes that Khuller “has a real knack for quickly understanding a student’s particular strengths and so is able to suggest problems that, while challenging, are well suited to the student’s skills.” He mentored 28 undergraduate students over the last 10 years with a number of these students matriculating into many outstanding graduate programs at Stanford, MIT, UC Berkeley, Georgia Tech, University of Washington, Princeton, Duke, CalTech and University of Maryland. Also, Khuller has worked very well with students of diverse backgrounds. For example, over the last decade roughly half of the students that he has mentored are women, and two are African-American. He has an outstanding record of completing undergraduate research experiences into publications that appear at very good conferences and journals. One of his mentees has been recognized by the CRA Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Award as the national winner, many others received honorable mentions, and several of his students received NSF Graduate Research Fellowships.

The 2020 selection committee includes Denys Poshyvanyk (chair, William & Mary), Eric Aaron (Colby College), Chandra Krintz (University of California, Santa Barbara), and Jennifer Rexford (Princeton University).