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2021 CS Department Awards and Thank-Yous

We are presenting this year’s CS Department Awards, Golden Brick Awards (for CS staff),  Teaching Thank-Yous, and SACM COW Award virtually again this year. Congratulations to all recipients!

CS Department Awards

The winners of the CS Department Awards are presented in this tropical video by Tom Reps.  See a list of the recipients below.

DeWitt Undergraduate Scholarship

Shu (Lynn) Liu
Julien de Castelnau
Ruixi (Rosalie) Cai

UW CS Graduate Instructor Award

Tianhao Chai

CISCO Graduate Student Fellowships

David Porfirio
Daniel Rakita

Carolyn Rosner Award for Excellence in Teaching

Gary Dahl

Graduate Student Research Award

Shuai Shao

UW CS Departmental Service Award

Lance Potter

Summer RAships

Sayali Alatkar
Mu Cai
Christine Lee
Nathaniel Sauerberg
Yuchen Zeng
Yiwei Zhang
Keren Chen
Surabhi Gupta
Sambhav Satija
Wiley Corning
Anvay Grover
Carter Sifferman
Varun Sundar
Yeping Wang
Aisha Mohamed

The Golden Brick Awards

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

The Golden Brick Award Recipients

Aileen Lee and Naveena Vishnu Sankar (WACM Biweekly Chairs): Aileen and Naveena helped resurrect WACM’s popular biweekly lunches in a virtual setting. They worked hard to create content on useful topics, for example, building a good resume, making the most out of conferences, and scholarship opportunities. They led (hour-long) engaging discussions, which served as a good mid-day break from classes/research while also providing a social platform for students to meet.

Amanda Captain: Amanda goes above and beyond as the WES-CS program director. Every week she thanks all the peer leaders for their work and continually offers her support in any way that she can. She goes above and beyond to make resources available to students. She supports all her employees. She is so kind and welcoming.

Beck Hasti: Beck has been a big support in not only helping me feel welcome in the department, but also being a sounding board for issues related to diversity, equity, and inclusion in the department.  Beck has helped point me to some resources that helped better support students.  Thank you Beck!

Carla Rose: Carla Rose has done so much this year to help create a welcoming environment for comp sci undergraduate students, including creating the MLC/CSLC study tables and forming the UW ColorStack student group.  Thank you Carla for helping make UW CS a more welcoming place for all!

Cindy Fendrick: Cindy joined the department just before the pandemic. The majority of her time working with CS faculty and supervising CS staff has been virtual. She has gone above and beyond to make sure her staff feel supported, respected, and valued. She has found ways to boost morale and facilitate social check-ins. Her trust in her team has made an uncertain time feel more stable and manageable. Cindy amazingly juggles many moving parts of the CS Department.

Gary Dahl: Gary’s commitment to creating equitable learning environments is truly notable.  He thinks about the department’s diverse student population and their needs.  For example, for this year’s TA training, Gary made sure that we supported international students new to the department who may not be familiar with the systemic inequalities around race as we worked to begin to address some of these inequities in TA training.  Gary also does not shy away from an uncomfortable conversations with students when these conversations are necessary to the benefit of ALL of his students.

Gigi Mitchell: Gigi is incredibly helpful and is always willing to go above and beyond to help anybody who asks. Gigi has been instrumental in keeping the department going during COVID. She oversaw the physical move of offices and classroom changes. Her onsite preference has been valuable during this uncertain year. Gigi is always always always helpful and will go out of her way to do whatever she can to make projects successful. Her down-to-earth attitude makes her very easy to work with – and I appreciate her straightforwardness and humor.

Jim Williams: Jim worked hard to create a plan to meet our growing needs in CS 200 by preparing and presenting a new approach to making the course accessible to many while freeing up other instructors to cover other needs. His willingness to take on the masses is much appreciated.

Josef “Bolo” Burger: For many years, Bolo has managed coffee on behalf of SACM. Last year when the pandemic suddenly caused the world to shut down, there were a lot of coffee-related items to be taken care of, including cleaning and packing up the coffee machines. Moreover, Bolo aided engineers to make sure that the coffee equipment would have a place in the remodeled 6th floor lounge.

Lance Potter: Lance has done a great job of maintaining a sense of community among the admin team during the last year when we’re all working remotely. The twice monthly video calls have been a good touch point – to see each other’s faces and hear how everyone is doing has acted like a tether to the department.  Lance and Gigi have been the face of the 5th floor, risking their safety and health so that the rest of us can work remotely. On top of that, they both are wonderfully responsive to any requests or questions that are put in front of them.

Mátyás Selmeci: As one of the longer tenured members of CHTC, Mat has demonstrated the quality of a UW CS degree by being a strong representative of the department staff. Mat was entrusted with the development of a service enabling over one hundred thousand compute hours for biomolecular modeling of COVID-19. He has also emerged as an expert in containers and Kubernetes in the distributed High Throughput Computing and High-Energy Physics fields.

Mehmet Demirel and Carter Sifferman: Mehmet and Carter volunteered their time to assist in moderating the incoming Virtual Weekend Graduate Assistantship session.  They feely gave of their time and contributed throughout the conversation.  They assisted with capturing session content and followed up ensuring information was assessible.  Their help was greatly appreciated!

Michael Radloff: Michael is now a year into his position as CS Ugrad Advisor. That year was spent almost 100% online!  He was instrumental in helping the CS Department do a quick pivot from face-to-face instructional plans for Fall 2020 to EVERYTHING online!   He spent hours assisting with adjusting course modality information this summer; filling a much needed gap.  He eagerly undertook compiling and submitting data for our first grant submission report and continues to support a new staff member in this effort.  He worked additional hours to process a wave of degree declarations that overlapped spring enrollment.  Michael’s willingness to jump into tasks at moments notice has been greatly appreciated.

Mollie Stolbov: Every single semester, Mollie, without fail, has been the most helpful person in giving me all the information I need to ensure I am on the right path to graduation with helping me pick classes, reaching out to others to get answers to questions she does not know, and offering support above and beyond just class choices. I feel extremely fortunate for meeting Mollie when I transferred in and cannot recommend her enough to other CS students when they need to talk to an academic advisor.

Shelby Arkin: Shelby has done an amazing job leading our prospective student information sessions, especially during the pandemic. She consistently receives praise from attendees on how well done and helpful these sessions are for them. These sessions have helped reach more prospective students than before when we were on campus.

Shivaram Venkataraman and Jelena Diakonikolas: Shivram and Jelena created the WISCERS program to encourage a more diverse set of students to consider a career in compute science research. They applied to Google for funding, design the program, recruited undergrads, grad students, and faculty to participate as mentors. The program has been a lot of fun and a great way to connect students and professors.

Shrey Shah: Shrey helped quite a few students (me included) feel welcome in the department, both in his position as a TA for 577 and a coord for the UPL. I was feeling quite lonely and was struggling in classes. Shrey took it upon himself to help me through 577 and meet people through the UPL, where I found that I wasn’t the only one he’s done this for. Shrey’s action helped the culture of the department as the students feel it immensely during a time when it would have been easy to turn away.

Sneha Polishetty, Shri Shruthi Shridhar, Lynn Liu, Atulya Reddy, Yuren Sun, Shishmitha Adusumilli, Vaathsalya Karpe, Stacie Barabas, Lucy Kuo, Rhea Cherian: WACM Activity chairs and Undergrad representatives have been key to the success of WACM and its events. These students especially did an exceptional job adapting to the virtual setting over the past year. This included coordinating with companies/speakers and publicity chairs, catering to various time-zones as well as making online events more engaging.

Suman Banerjee: I really appreciated how mindful of students’ mental health Prof. Banerjee was this semester! This is extremely refreshing as college can often be a place where students’ mental health is a neglected concern. It’s been especially appreciated given the times and the fact that this is my planned final semester, so there’s added stress with that. Thanks so much for all your hard work and for caring so much about your students!

Tyler Caraza Harter: I haven’t had any instructor who cares about producing quality content for their course as much as Tyler does. He goes above and beyond setting up the curriculum, and creating fun and interesting projects and lectures. Additionally, he proactively improves the course, listens to our feedback, and creates a welcoming learning environment.

Vaathsalya Karpe, Seanna Zhang, Mira Subramanian, Chunrong Huang (WACM’s Social Media and Web Chairs): An effective web and social media presence has been crucial to the success of WACM events as well as to building a network of sponsors/collaborators. Vaathsalya, Chunrong, Seanna, and Mira made sure to keep WACM’s social media, website, and wisc events calendar up-to-date. This has helped improve turnout for virtual events, and led to several on/off-campus collaborations.

WES-CS Peer Leaders:  Aileen Lee, Sumita Jayaraman, Caroline Machart, Rose Tokar, Arabella Yao, Khailanii Slaton, Alberto Rodriguez Toro, Aishvi Shah, Maya Blitz, Clare Stumpf, Peter Matthews, Harini Narayan, Shubham Mehta, Atulya Reddy, Levi Redlin, Kiara Mutschler (graduated Fall), Isaac Wirsbinski (graduated Fall): WES-CS leads make WES-CS successful through their dedication to the students in their sections and their support of each other.  Thank you for going above and beyond this year to help WES-CS students grow in their computing confidence, master foundational computing skills, and build connection in this unusual and challenging year.  You all continue to help make this department a great place to be.

The Teaching Awards

This is the second year we’re publicly and officially thanking students who teach in the CS Department with Teaching Thank-Yous. Recipients are listed below. Congratulations!

Teaching Award Recipients

Akshay Hari: Peer Mentor, CS 220 – Data Programming I
Akshay was really helpful with solving exam and project queries. I think he created a very comfortable atmosphere whenever approached  with doubts. He not just possessed computer science knowledge to help, but engaged into explaining how each and every aspect is relevant when dealing with real world data.

Camila Hernandez Flowerman: Teaching Assistant, CS 638 – Ethics and CS
Actively co-teaches the class sessions, teaching topics of ethics comprehensively for students that have little or no prior education in the area. Effectively leads full class discussions and facilitates smoother discussions in breakout groups. Overall her academic background (ethical philosophy) provides as an effective complement to the primary instructor’s area of expertise (computer science).

Cole Nelson: Teaching Assistant, CS 639: Building UI/UX
Cole is a super patient, kind, and fully available TA who made this class so enriching. He was always happy to help out and was super knowledgeable too. He goes the extra mile for his students and the efforts he’s a part of and is bound to do amazing things in CS and academia. Go Cole!!

Kai Wang: Peer Mentor, CS 540 – Introduction to Artificial Intelligence
Kai is a wonderful peer mentor for CS540: Intro to Artificial Intelligence, if not the best peer mentor I’ve come across through my data science major journey. He is extremely intelligent, patient, friendly, and dedicated to helping others understand any topics they may be confused about.

Rami Dahman: Teaching Assistant, CS 252 – Introduction to Computer Engineering
Rami has been an extremely helpful, knowledgeable, and amazing TA in CS252. He answers any questions students post on piazza very quickly, and with detailed response that you can tell he takes time to write. He is also happy to help in office hours, and very much cares about students’ success.

Robert Williams: Teaching Assistant, CS 537 – Introduction to Operating Systems
Robert has been invaluable in helping me understand what’s happening under the hood of my code this semester. He’s patient when I’m confused, and even through a screen I can tell that he truly loves CS.

Saurabh Kulkarni: Teaching Assistant, CS 537 – Introduction to Operating Systems
Saurabh is an outstanding TA in CS537. He has taken the time to communicate and assist students outside of normal office hours, reducing our stress and overall being a huge help by being accessible and giving rapid feedback and encouragement throughout the semester. Saurabh stands out to me as going above and beyond the call of a TA to help the students in the class.

Wiley Corning: Teaching Assistant, CS 559 – Computer Graphics
Wiley was an incredible resource for me in this class. Lectures were sometimes difficult for me to convert to actual applications in our projects, and whenever I had a question about the concepts, Wiley took his time to write out incredibly detailed responses to me. Usually on Piazza TAs tend to give vague non-answers, but Wiley actually helped me understand the concepts.

Yebo Cao: Teaching Assistant, CS 542 – Introduction to Software Security
Yebo Cao has helped so much in this course and done much beyond his duties as a peer mentor. He attended each lecture of CS 542 and often extended his office hour to help us through our exercises.  He is by far the most helpful peer mentor I met, and can explain all our course materials clearly in the ways that I understand.


The SACM COW (Choice of Wisconsin) 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.
The winner of the COW Award for 2021 is Prof Michael Swift!
Congratulations, Professor!