Aarhus Universitets segl

Well-attended computer science day

On Friday, May 23 the Department of Computer Science hosted Computer Science Day, where more than 100 students and employees got a brief presentation of the various research projects in the different research groups.

Slides from presentations can be seen at http://cs.au.dk/csd2014

On the same occasion the following awards were given:

Teaching Assistant Award

The winner was Nick Nielsen

Nick says: "First and foremost, I am, of course, very pleased to receive this award! I know that there are many talented teaching assistants at the department and that the competition has been close. I am also very pleased that the department (at least, in the way I have experienced it) makes an effort to upgrade the teaching assistants. Through courses such as Science Teaching, but also through initiatives such as this award. I believe that it strengthens the overall quality of the learning, and I hope that this can be expanded in the future, for example by having scientific afternoons where you discuss learning."

Student Award

The winner was Morten Larsson.

Morten says: "It means a lot to me to receive this award. It's really great to know that people notice what you are doing. I think that the department deserves a gift for the focus, they have on the student environment. This award is an excellent example of this."

Teacher of the Year Award

The winner was Olivier Danvy.

Olivier says:

First of all, I'd like to thank the dProgSprog students: without them, none of this would have been possible.  Come to think of it, all of this would have been impossible without the TAs.  So, my heartfelt thanks go to them, for their knowledge and their dedication (both scientific, educational, and human); for a current example, Jacob Johannsen is quite extraordinary in that respect, up and including proof-reading exams.  A special mention goes to Ian Zerny, for making me use the Sphinx framework for the lecture notes: that was a game changer.  Gudmund Frandsen, besides being an outstanding teacher himself, has always played a key role for the selection of TAs: we have spirited discussions and I am appreciative of our common values.  Our secretary extraordinaire Arne Jensen has always been there to make sure things happened in a timely fashion, and so does Ann Eg Molhave.  Anders Moeller has always been an efficient and appreciated internal censor.  And throughout, I have always relied on Jan Midtgaard for his consummate scholarship and for his ethics.

But that is not the question.  The question is: what does it mean to me to win the best teacher award on the Computer Science Day of 2014?  I honestly don't know: the fun is in the game.  On a daily basis, it is a joy to see first-year students discovering themselves as they discover computer science.  A significant enabler, I think, is that I take them seriously: for example, in the tradition of the education at MIT, I try to have the corrected exam set online a few hours after the end of the exam.  I find it an extraordinary sight to see the students discussing their exam in quite technical detail, displayed on their laptop or on their phone.  More globally, I can say that I was very touched when a former TA from the old days expressed the wish that I would teach programming languages to his son, now enrolled at AU.  This year, at a break, a student identified herself as the daughter of one of our more mature students, a while back; apparently they shared stories about their educational experience in dProgSprog, and that is touching too.  I also feel touched when, somehow, at the very end of the course, the students applaud; we don't have this tradition in France.  What takes the prize, though, is students who come back, a couple of years later, to quietly sit through the course again.  I asked them why, and they wouldn't quite say.  But I am glad they too see depth in programming languages.

All in all, I am just following the tradition of the department that researchers in an area teach undergraduate students in that area.  It makes all the difference for the students.  In that light, it is not surprising to see who has been nominated since the award exists, and it is quite clear who will be nominated next.  This collegiate tradition is a source of excellence for the department, and if I had one wish to make, it would be that teachers get more support to foster this excellence.