PhD candidate David Abel of Brown CS, who just recently proposed his thesis and expects to graduate with a PhD in Computer Science and a Master’s in Philosophy next spring, has been recognized for an accomplishment beyond his achievements in research. Chosen out of hundreds of graduate students with teaching appointments, Dave was one of only four to win the Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching.
The award, given annually at the University Awards ceremony, recognizes outstanding pedagogical achievement. Its criteria span from teaching that influences and inspires students to learn to development of curriculum and resources that promote student learning.
Dave began his teaching journey in 2014 as a TA for Stefanie Tellex, teaching CS 1410 (an undergraduate Artificial Intelligence class). After being nominated as a “great TA” by the students in the class, he became a TA for CS 8 (A First Byte of Computer Science), an introductory computer science class for non-majors taught by Professor Michael Littman with enrollment of 109 students. During his semester of teaching the course, Dave was consistently praised by his students, with many citing his “energy, availability, and thoughtfulness” as being key to fostering an environment for intellectual curiosity. Dave was instrumental in implementing an optional python unit in the class that gave students the opportunity to learn a language used widely in industry. As a testament to his teaching abilities, a full 98.5% of respondents rated the class as effective or very effective when Michael took a sabbatical and Dave ran the class on his own.
Not limited to the classroom, Dave has been involved in a variety of activities that may very well have had an even greater impact on the Brown community. Along with fellow CS PhD students Nediyana Daskalova and Amariah Becker, Dave has been heavily involved in designing and running peer mentorship program in the department. His initiative pairs up post-candidacy PhD students with first year PhD students, ensuring that new students have proper guidance regarding finding research, working with their advisor, and establishing work-life balance. Keeping with the spirit of mentorship, Dave has been a primary research advisor for several Brown undergraduates as well. Over the past few years, he has co-authored 11 papers with many undergraduate students, guiding them through the research process.
Dave has clearly shown himself to be a remarkable teacher, both in and outside the classroom. As he finishes up his graduate studies, it's evident that his work has made a personal impact on the many dozens of students with whom he has worked.
For more information, click the link that follows to contact Brown CS Communications Outreach Specialist Jesse Polhemus.