Neil Spring receives University System of Maryland Board of Regents' Faculty Award for Excellence in Mentoring for 2017

Each year the University System of Maryland (USM) awards faculty members for excellence and their contributions to the university community.  This year, one of the recipients for excellence in mentoring is Associate Professor of Computer Science, Neil Spring. According to USM, the awards represent "the highest honor presented by the board to exemplary faculty members. Presented in four categories, the awards honor excellence in teaching, public service, mentoring, innovation, and a combined category of research, scholarship and creative activity."

Doctoral student Ramakrishna Padmanabhan nominated Spring for the award.  "Neil is one of those rare few professors who adapt themselves to their students’ styles instead of expecting the students to adapt to theirs,” said Padmanabhan. “He is passionate, honest, and is a bastion of constructive criticism.”

Spring joined the Department of Computer Science in 2005 after earning his doctorate in computer science from the University of Washington. His tenure here has been marked not only by research and awards, but by dedication to both the department and to the field of computer science at large. Spring served as the co-chair of the department undergraduate honors program from 2012-2015, and he redesigned CMSC 396H, the course which introduces honors students to research in computer science.  He also served as the information services director for ACM SIGCOMM from 2007-2013. He is currently the co-chair of the department’s building committee for the Brendan Iribe Center for Computer Science and Innovation.

“Neil is a gem.  He is a star researcher, who is worth his weight in gold. Neil is fully invested in his students’ success, and I cannot think of a faculty member more worthy of the mentoring award in our department,” said Samir Khuller, Professor and Elizabeth Stevinson Iribe Chair of Computer Science.

Spring’s mentoring abilities are also evident in the undergraduate classroom as well.  He has recently created an honors section of CMSC 216: Introduction to Computer Systems. Sophie Jessel and Sandra Sandeep, two first year students who are in the course, praised Spring’s teaching style and his addition of arduino boards to make learning objectives and concepts clearer.   When asked about their experience with Spring and the class, they praised his ability to not only immerse them in the C language, but to quickly clarify problems any student encounters in the course.  Jessel and Sandeep also credit Spring with increasing their confidence in computer science.

“He’s a really smart programmer and we could tell immediately that Neil knows a lot. He  is super enthusiastic, and it’s cool to see what’s ahead as he introduces us to new concepts,” said Jessel.

“Neil assumes that you know a lot, and the class moves fast but he allows you to stop and ask questions.  There is never any condescension, and you never feel behind because there is always a moment where you can get concepts clarified,” said Sandeep.

Spring will receive this award in a ceremony hosted by USM in April.

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