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2020 CS Department Awards and Thank-Yous

We are presenting this year’s CS Department Awards, the SACM (Student chapter of the Association for Computing Machinery) Choice of Wisconsin (COW) Award, the Golden Brick Awards (for CS staff), and Teaching Thank-Yous virtually this year, which must come as no surprise! The brief introductory videos below, created by CS Award Committee Chair Tom Reps, SACM Co-Chairs Amanpreet Singh Saini and Mark Mansi, and Instructional Program Director Professor Mike Swift, provide details on the awards and thank-yous. Congratulations to all recipients!

CS Department Awards

Drum roll, please! The winners of the CS Department Awards are presented in this video by Tom Reps, which includes details about each award and recipient – and stories from Tom Reps! See a list of the recipients below.

CS Department Awards video

DeWitt Undergraduate Scholarship ($8000 to each recipient)

Ruizhe Wang
Sihan Liu

UW CS Graduate Instructor Award

Aishawarya Ganesan

UW CS Graduate Fellowships

Klug NCR  Graduate Fellowship in Database Systems

Rogers Jeffrey Leo John

Landweber NCR Graduate Fellowship in Distributed Systems

Varun Chandrasekaran

Carolyn Rosner Award for Excellence in Teaching

Jim Williams

Graduate Student Research Award

Calvin Smith

UW CS Departmental Service Award

Remzi Arpaci-Dusseau

SACM Choice of Wisconsin (COW) Award

 The SACM COW award is an annual prize recognizing excellence in teaching. It is given to CS Department faculty who have demonstrated a strong dedication to *classroom teaching* (as opposed to research or other activities). The recipient is determined by student votes. Here is a list of past years’ winners: https://sacm.cs.wisc.edu/cowaward/index.shtml

The winner of the COW Award for 2020 is Prof Shivaram Venkataraman!

Prof Shivaram received more than twice as many votes as the runner-up! In Fall 2019, he taught CS 744, Big Data Systems, and this Spring, he taught CS 537 undergraduate OS. Two students specifically mentioned enjoying his Big Data class. In the spirit of “less is more,” another student said “awesome OS faculty.” Another student said simply “Excellent teaching style!”

Congratulations Professor!

The Golden Brick Awards

This is the fifth year of the Golden Brick Awards recognizing service to the CS Department. Congratulations to the winners!

The Golden Brick Award Recipients

Amanda Captain: Amanda took over organizing WES-CS this year and was really hands on with her cohort of students. She took an already amazing program that supports new cs students and improved it by creating curriculum that improves students’ leadership and dignity skills in addition to their technical skills.

Amanpreet Singh Saini: Aman’s contributions and dedication to SACM as President of the organization has made a real and positive impact on this department. He is extremely reliable, and his leadership and hard work is shown in the welcoming environment they create for students through events and activities.

Andrea Arpaci-Dusseau: I can’t thank Andrea enough for the energy she has put into being WACM’s faculty advisor. She really cares about students, and this is no better exemplified by the fact that she opens up her home to host WACM members for dinner at her house every other year. From this “fun work” to the “not so fun work” of helping us with ACM and bank documents, she is the reason WACM can successfully transition through student leadership and continue to run year after year.

Andrew Kuemmel: Andy is an outstanding instructor who is passionate about education. He is always thinking of new ideas to improve a course and make the content relevant to students. His compassion towards those he works with as well as his students is something to aspire to; he always starts each meeting by checking in on how everyone is doing and what’s going on in our lives. His mentorship has helped me grow to become more confident in my work and trust my decisions.

Angela Thorp: Angela works tirelessly on behalf of our grad students. Her wise advice to the faculty who make up the admissions and graduate committees is extremely valuable. She works hard to make sure the department runs smoothly, and across the board contributes immensely to our department.

Cindy Fendrick: Wow, what a great job for just getting started and not having had much chance to learn what was being done before having to manage all of the changes and work that our expanding course and personnel lists require.   Cindy has shouldered many burdens that our CS Academic Program Manager must deal with on a daily basis. She asks good questions, shares keen insight and works hard to ensure that systems are working well and/or improved if necessary.

CSL Staff/David Parter: David Parter and CSL went above and beyond in delivering equipment and offering other unusual forms of help due to COVID-19. They were well prepared, and really went the extra mile to support the Department in the COVID crisis.

David Merrell and the SACM Food Team (Lijing Yang, Luke Wallace Swanson, Ankur Goswami, Phanindra Moganti, Arijit Pramanik, Sujay Sudarshan, Akhil Guliani): The Food Team is critical to the success of many SACM events, since many of our events involve free food. It is the Food Team’s job to research, procure, and serve high-quality food throughout the year. This includes some pretty large events, like the Fall Picnic. The job often requires a lot of preparation and research. It often also requires a lot of time to actually serve food during events and clean up afterwards. David and his team have always risen to the occasion, even on short notice.

David Merrell, Varun Chandresekanan, Akhil Guliani – SACM Advisors: SACM organizes a large number of events throughout the academic year including some large events like the Fall Picnic, MegaTGIFs, part of Welcome Weekend, etc. Most of the funding from these events also comes from varied sources which makes them more tricky to manage. Not only have we leveraged David, Varun, and Akhil while transitioning the leadership at the start of this academic year through a lot of long meetings, but also their advice has been invaluable throughout the year ensuring proper functioning of the traditional tasks and good execution of our events.

Dieter Van Melkebeek: Dieter did an outstanding job leading the effort to organize our sudden transition to online due to COVID-19. He stepped up at the beginning of the crisis and worked hard to arrange equipment for instructors and communicate with the college and university around teaching issues.

Ian Mark, Mike White, Isabella Luo, Hayden Pilsner – MadHacks:
Ian Mark: Ian was the President and Director of MadHacks and led the club to organize the biggest student hackathon in Wisconsin. He grew the club from 10 active members to close to 30 active members. In 2018 and 2019, MadHacks successfully brought together 350+ students from all over the US and Canada for a weekend of hacking.
Mike White: Mike was the Vice-President of MadHacks and helped organize the biggest student hackathon in Wisconsin. He helped raise over $30,000 from corporate partners. He also helped connect UW-Madison students with local tech companies for career opportunities.
Isabella Luo: Isabella was the Director of Mentorship at MadHacks. In 2019, Isabella brought together more than 50+ local software engineers, and IT professionals to help mentor and inspire UW-Madison students at MadHacks.
Hayden Pilsner: Hayden was the Director of Engineering at MadHacks. In 2019, he designed and developed a fully functional website that helped MadHacks attract students from all over North America to travel to Wisconsin for a weekend of hacking.

Jeanne Preston: Jeanne Preston is an ever-positive and helpful member of the CS Student Services team. This year, in particular, Preston helped significantly with course scheduling and room assignment details while other team positions were vacant. Always quick to respond to needs and requests, she is a great addition to the CS staff.

John Perkins: John’s effort during the change to remote working has been phenomenal.  He worked with numerous staff members to ensure their technology tools were operational and functional in this new environment.  His outstanding effort, creativeness in problem solving, and comforting words when systems were struggling deserves a standing ovation.  Thank you John for your time and dedication to your work.

Josef Thomas Burger (Bolo): We would like to nominate Bolo for managing all things related to coffee for many years reliably. Bolo is the one who for many years has run coffee, placing orders for coffee beans, cleaning and maintaining machines, and otherwise making sure things run smoothly. He does this on a volunteer basis in addition to his own work. He has gone above and beyond the normal call of service by having foresight to deal with arising problems without being asked.

Justin Hsu: Prof. Hsu is one of the best professors I have had at UW-Madison. He is friendly, energetic, and always willing to answer questions, regardless of how complex or confusing they may be. His lectures are well organized and always interesting, even if the material itself is not. After classes moved online, Justin continued to devote a large amount of time and effort to our education, always answering questions promptly on the class forum and staying overtime for any last-minute issues.

Katie Zutter: Katie Zutter has done an awesome job as WACM president this year.  She also volunteered last fall to staff the GHC booth at GHC 2019 with me.  She was such a pleasure to work with; always positive, always energetic, always wiling to help. At GHC she als oprovided leadership lead the WACM contingent of student attendees. Her competence and her easy going, warm personality make her a joy to work with, an excellent role model for other women in CS and a natural born leader. Thank you Katie for the many contributions you have made to the dept.

Lance Potter: Lance was extremely helpful during the time Nikki Lemmon left and the department was left without an Academic Program Manager. During this time, Lance wore many hats and each day presented a calm, caring attitude to the many people calling on him for help.  I’m not sure how many resignations and job postings, interviews, etc. he dealt with between July and February (it was a lot!), but he never appeared ruffled or uncaring with any concerns brought before him.

Luke Wallace Swanson: Photographs are a key way that SACM documents what it does for others to see and helps to preserve memories. Luke graciously put his personal and expensive camera to use to capture the moments in various SACM events. This was on top of his role in the Food Team and the fact that many of our events coincided with his evening class.

Mark Mansi: Mark’s contributions and dedication to SACM as Vice President of the organization has made a real and positive impact on this department. He is extremely reliable, and his leadership and hard work is shown in the welcoming environment they create for students through events and activities.

Matt Dutson and the SACM Events Team (Rojin Rezvan Sangsari, Sourav Pal, Samuel Drews, Joseph Mohr, Shanmathi Natarajan, Srujana, Archie Abhashkumar, Shri Shruthi Shridhar, Grishma Gupta, Ali Zaidi, Anshu Verma, Lijing Yang, Samuel Jackson): The Events Team is at the heart of SACM, since much of our mission is carried out by organizing and hosting events. This team is not for the faint of heart. Chairing the Events Team is one of the most difficult roles within SACM. It requires juggling multiple (often large) projects in flight at the same time. Participating on the Events Team requires taking ownership or co-ownership of an event, contacting vendors and venues, budgeting, and coordinating with other teams, such as the Food, Finance, and Communications Teams.

Mehmet Demirel and the SACM Communications Team (Mehmet Demirel, Apurbaa Bhattacharjee, Parul Gupta, Konstantinos Kanellis, Luke Wallace Swanson, Sangeetha Grama Srinivasan, Sajal Jain): SACM has strived to create a good personal brand in the eyes of the students and the department using effective and clear communication. To this end, all the officers in the communication team played a crucial role. Not only did they come up with a beautiful logo that encapsulates SACM’s motto (Lead. Grow. Network.), but they also communicated proactively with the events team to send timely announcements and reminders of various SACM events.

Michael Swift: Mike’s willingness to answer questions and ponder along with me kept the work and me alive.  Mike’s love for teaching and supporting student learning is evident in everything he does.  Mike gives tireless energy to making CS the best computer science department.

Nibedita Pattnaik: Nibedita is helping graduate admissions proceed very smoothly in a very short, intense time period (including evenings and weekends).  Due to her help, the graduate admissions committee is able to more easily choose the best 300 students out of more than 2000. applicants.   Thank you, Nibedita!

Remzi Arpaci-Dusseau: Remzi is very helpful and approachable. Besides his vast knowledge in his field of work, I also appreciate how he carries out his administrative duties as Department Chair. He makes sure he attends to student requests in the best possible way he can. Thank you all so much for your leadership, knowledge, willingness to listen, and your ever expanding vision for the department and all who work and learn here.  It is hard to imagine what this semester would have been like without the immediate feedback that you are all able to provide, even when you must occasionally answer, “I (we) don’t know yet.”

Sam Theuer: Sam is an undergraduate student working in the CSL (he is graduating in a few weeks). He has lead our logistics staff, coordinating many purchases, purchasing records, delivery, and inventory of purchased items. He has also worked to improve our processes and purchasing documentation, and did a great job to find every single item on our Capital Inventory audit (794 items).

Swati Anand and the SACM Finance Team (Anupraas Gautam, Jatin Arora, Kundan Kumar, Anshu Verma): SACM has a large budget for a student organization. Procuring funds from the department has been a tough job because of tricky UW Foundation’s funding structures. Keeping track of the budget for the vast SACM activities is no easy task either. The finance team is no doubt the backbone of SACM without which it would have been very difficult to have many of the events that SACM organized throughout the year.

Todd Tannenbaum; Todd has been technical lead of the HTCondor team for over 20 years, helping grow our software platform into one of the world’s most widely-used batch processing systems. He manages a diverse group of distributed systems programmers working on difficult computer science problems, and is incredibly knowledgeable and clever helping us solve them.

Vasso Founta: I would like to nominate Vasso for working on several projects…facilities improvement, industrial affiliates, outreach, etc that benefit CS. While Vasso works for CDIS and technically not CS she has worked hard to build capacities and will hopefully advance several projects that benefit the department.

WES-CS 300 team (Carley Reardon, Sumita Jayaraman, Kiara Mutschler, Atulya Reddy, Levi Redlin): Carley, Sumita, Kiara, Atulya, and Levi have worked hard this year to research and develop activities for a WES-CS to support students in Comp Sci 300.  I have been impressed with their desire and dedication in developing activities that are challenging, engaging, and fun for this new extension of WES-CS.  The question “What will most benefit WES-CS students taking CS 300?” permeated every group meeting, as did a genuine interest in supporting each other and each other’s work.  Thank you!

WES-CS (Rose Tokar, Colin Hassett, Harini Narayan, Arabella Yao, Alberto Rodriguez Toro, Shubham Mehta, Peter Matthews, Clare Stumpf, Isaac Wirsbinski): Rose, Colin, Harini, Arabella, Alberto, Shubham, Peter, Clare, and Isaac have done an amazing job this semester working with students in WES-CS.  With the switch to an online format mid-semester, this incredible group of undergraduates did not miss a step.  From helping me plan an approach that would work for peer leaders and students alike, to being open and enthusiastic about new ways of conducting WES-CS sections, to finding ways to help students feel connected, these leads have done a fantastic job during a very challenging semester.  Thank you!

Youmin Han: Youmin had worked with the CS advisors at SOAR and really impressed with his personal skills in working with students, sincere desire to help them understand their DARS, policies, and schedules. He demonstrated great knowledge in our program and we trusted him greatly during one of our busiest summers.  He made a huge difference in making SOAR easier for our students and welcoming them to the CS program at UW. Thank you for your hard work and excellent representation of our program!

The Teaching Awards

This is the first year we’re publicly and officially thanking students who teach in the CS Department with Teaching Thank-Yous. Mike Swift explains the process for soliciting nominations and selecting the top nominees in the following short video:

The Teaching Award Recipients

Young Wu, TA, CS 540 and CS 559: Did an absolutely amazing job being the head TA of CS 540. Great about responding and went out of his way to help students in office hours and past his office hours. I know everyone really appreciates his effort

June Werner, Peer, CS 537: June knows her stuff in and out. She takes the time to understand the concern of the students and walks through the solution with them. She makes sure the students understand the concepts and helps them to her best capacity.She has created a positive impact on a lot of students in this course. She genuinely cares about them and ensures that she provides qualitative and quantitative help during lab hours.

Connor Waity, Peer, CS 200: Connor really made an effort to help students and relate to them. He was so cool and helpful and really went out of his way to help students understand computer science in a really important introductory course. Connor explains stuff with ease and in a way that is simple to understand. He has the respect of the class and is a good role model. He’s a straight chiller and I’d def snag a beer with him.

Sacha Jungerman, TA, 320: I think that Sacha is very well deserving of this award, as he has spent countless hours helping me understand some of the advanced and difficult topics required to succeed in this course. I would email him late at night, or ask to meet at times outside of office hours and he would do whatever is required to make my educational experience better. I am very thankful that he was a T/A for CS320 this semester.

Ashwin Maran, TA, CS 220/301: Ashwin was by far the best TA I’ve worked with for Computer Science.  He’s articulate, makes sure you’re following along in his explanations, and, most importantly, gets you to the right answer to the question you have.  He’s very patient and encourages you to “”try it”” on python tutor to follow and understand error codes in a more complete way.

India Archer, Peer, CS 200: India was such a helpful TA this semester. I came into this class with no previous computer science experience so it was kind of daunting to figure everything out, but she was always so helpful. In team labs and at the help desk whenever I would ask a question she always made sure I understood and made things much easier for me. I am really thankful to of had such a great, caring TA this semester; it really meant a lot.

Jeremy McMahan, TA, CS 301/CS 577: Jeremy went above and beyond his duties as a TA! He would often stay later than the scheduled lab time and would meet with my partner and I outside lab time or his office hours to help guide us through projects. One thing that separated Jeremy from the other TA’s was his ability to phrase the course material in a way that I could better understand, including his review videos. He’s the best TA I’ve had, and this class would have been much more difficult without him. He deserves this award!

Ben Shulman, Peer, CS 200: Ben was the best TA I have had at Madison so far before the start of online instruction and since the online instruction he has found a way to continue that through an online format. He created a system for out online labs that allows them to be just as effective as when they are in person. He seems to truly care about his role as a teaching assistant and it most definitely shows.

Mehmet Demirel, TA, CS 310: Mehmet is an excellent TA that really takes the time to work with students till they understand the problem, using a step by step approach. This is especially helpful in a subject like CS 310, where a conceptual grasp of Mathematics and coding with MATLab/Maple are important. One of my favorite TAs this semester!

Amos Kendall, TA, CS 200: Amos was my team lab adviser and he was always very enthusiastic and helpful whenever we had questions. He explained things in a manner that helped us actually learn the materials instead of just giving us the answers. He took it upon himself to make sure we got the needed information from the lab even if we were unsure when we first came in. Overall he was a very good TA and I wish I could have him in future classes.

Andrew Schoen, TA, 559: Andy went above and beyond any TA I have every worked with in helping with this class. Without him, this (brand new) class wouldn’t have happened. He showed great leadership with the rest of the instructional team (another TA, grader, two peer mentors).I have never had or heard of a TA as hardworking and dedicated as Andy and someone who has contributed to a class so much. He is extraordinarily deserving of a departmental/campus TA award.

Jeremy Intan, Peer, 552: Jeremy is a peer mentor in CS/ECE 552 this semester.  I wanted to nominate him because he has repeatedly gone above and beyond in helping students succeed in the course.  For example, he frequently attends discussion section (not required for peer mentors) to provide an additional resource to help students debug problems with their Verilog, and on several occasions (before the transition to online only instruction) even held extra office hours the night assignments were do.  Simply put, Jeremy has been an indispensable resource, and thus I feel is worthy of receiving this award.

Sujay Yadalam Sudarshan, TA, 642: Sujay initially wanted to take the CS642 class himself, but due to shortage of CS642 TAs, he volunteered to help me with TAing while learning (without credits) from the class.  So, he will study the materials himself so that he can help the students with their quesions. He was always available on Piazza to help students with their homeworks and general computer security questions.  He is a good teacher.

Akhil Guliani, TA, 639: Akhil has been an amazing asset to this class. For our flipped classroom, he has been proactive in developing in-class small group exercises and had led several of these exercises. It is clear that he has studied new learning techniques and handles the class size of 80 student quite well.  He is often the first person to respond to Piazza questions from the students, and is constantly giving us useful suggestions on our teaching materials.


The Complete videos!