LOS ALAMITOS, Calif., 3 March, 2011 – Benjamin Hescott, a senior lecturer and research assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science at Tufts University's School of Engineering has been named the 2011 recipient of the IEEE Computer Society Computer Science and Engineering Undergraduate Teaching Award.
The award recognizes outstanding contributions to undergraduate education through both teaching and service. The award is intended to highlight the Computer Society's commitment to undergraduate education, as well as affirm its support for excellence in undergraduate education.
Hescott was recognized "for making computer science accessible to a broad spectrum of students through his energy, enthusiasm, and dedication to teaching." At Tufts, he is credited with helping boost interest in computer science classes through the use of humor, creativity, and intense classroom discussions.
Any faculty member in a degree program in computer science, computer engineering, computer information systems, or a similar program is eligible to be nominated. The award consists of a stipend of $2,000, a plaque, and certificate. The award will be presented at an awards dinner on Wednesday, 25 May in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Hescott's research interests include computational complexity, Kolmorgorov complexity, approximation algorithms, and computational biology. Most recently, within the school's computational biology research group, he is working to discover genetic motifs that represent redundant systems.
Hescott says his favorite place to be is in the classroom. He is continually searching for new tools and analogies to help make computer science and programming accessible to all. His teaching tools include everything from rolls of paper towels to model Turing Machine tapes to nesting Tupperware containers for linked lists. He is currently working on new curricula for the first year sequence of computer science.
Hescott graduated from Boston University with a PhD in computer science in 2008. While at BU, he received the Department Teaching Award. At Tufts, he is the faculty supervisor for the student ACM chapter and serves as liaison to the New England Undergraduate Computer Science Symposium. He is member of the leadership team for Empowering Leadership Alliance, whose main purpose is encouraging, preparing, and retaining underrepresented minorities in computer science.
The 2009 recipient of the Computer Science and Engineering Undergrad Teaching Award was Judy Robertson, a senior lecturer in computer science at Heriot-Watt University in Scotland. Robertson was also the principal investigator of a grant, funded by Britain's Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, that provided support to high school teachers in the use of game-making projects with their students. She received her BSc in computer science and artificial intelligence at the University of Edinburgh in 1997 and a PhD in artificial intelligence at the same university in 2001.