The Education Committee of the Computing Research Association (CRA-E) is proud to announce two recipients of the 2021 CRA-E Undergraduate Research Faculty Mentoring Award: Tijana Milenkovic from University of Notre Dame and Saad Biaz from Auburn 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.
Tijana Milenkovic is a Frank M. Freimann Collegiate Associate Professor of Engineering at the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Notre Dame. Milenkovic has been a Notre Dame faculty since 2010, after earning her Ph.D. in computer science from the University of California Irvine in the same year. Her research focuses on challenging problems in the fields of network science, graph algorithms, computational biology, scientific wellness, and social networks. She has been a recipient of multiple prestigious awards including 2015 NSF CAREER and 2016 Air Force Office of Scientific Research Young Investigator Program (AFOSR YIP) awards.
Milenkovic has mentored 25 undergraduate students. Of these, ten (40%) have been women, and four (16%) have been African-American or Latinx. She is passionate about engaging undergraduate students in research. Milenkovic invests significant time and effort into each of her undergraduate students – meeting with them individually each week to discuss concepts, helping them to ask and answer challenging and cutting-edge research questions through exploring new ideas, developing software, designing and executing experiments, and ultimately writing papers and publishing their work in well-respected venues. She has provided exceptional mentorship to her students and has engaged in numerous broader outreach activities. Seven of her mentored students have continued to graduate school at e.g., Stanford and MIT. Several of them have then proceeded to faculty careers at highly ranked universities, including UIUC and UC Riverside. Beyond individual mentoring, Milenkovic is actively engaged in recruitment and retention of female, ethnic, and other underrepresented minority students at both undergraduate and graduate levels.
Saad Biaz is an Associate Professor at the Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering at Auburn University. He received his Ph.D. in computer science from Texas A&M University in 1999.
Biaz’s research is in the area of wireless networking, distributed systems, mobile, pervasive computing and unmanned aerial vehicles. He has been a recipient of multiple awards related to his teaching, research and mentoring activities at Auburn university.
Biaz has mentored a number of undergraduate students over the years. As many as 27 students that he has mentored have gone to a graduate school including Yale, Berkeley and CMU. Biaz has been an attentive mentor to his students. He reads every word every student writes and provides detailed feedback to them. He also helps students learn how to make strategic decisions about the direction of their research, and when and how to decide if a particular approach is successful or whether they should redirect their efforts in another direction. The value of Biaz’s interactions with the students can be seen in the large number of them who stay in touch with him. Overall, he has provided exceptional mentorship to his students and has engaged in numerous broader outreach activities.
The 2021 selection committee includes Monica Anderson (University of Alabama), Margaret Burnett (Oregon State), Maria Gini (University of Minnesota) and Denys Poshyvanyk (Chair, William & Mary).