Cornell Bowers College of Computing and Information Science
A color photo showing 10 people smiling for a photo after a recent awards ceremony


10 pioneering faculty receive Cornell Bowers CIS excellence awards

May 17, 2023

The Cornell Ann S. Bowers College of Computing and Information Science awarded 10 faculty members annual excellence awards for the 2022-2023 academic year.

Five were honored for exceptional research, and another five were honored for teaching and advising excellence during a reception held Friday, May 12, in Willard Straight Hall.

Ann S. Bowers ’59 Research Awards

Nate Foster, interim associate dean for research, presented the Ann S. Bowers ’59 Research Excellence Awards to the following faculty. The award recognizes scholars, their research contributions, and reputation in and impact on their respective fields.

Nicki Dell is an associate professor of information science at the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute at Cornell Tech and in Cornell Bowers CIS. Dell develops technology oriented toward social impact, improving the lives of underserved communities around the world. She has done work at the intersection of health and technology, with projects that seek to strengthen community health programs in low-income areas and provide useful technology for home health workers. More recently, she and her collaborators created the Clinic to End Tech Abuse (CETA), which provides direct help to survivors of intimate partner violence. Foster commended Dell’s “‘soup to nuts’-style research, taking innovative ideas and then building teams to truly move the needle. This style of work is both a hallmark of Cornell Bowers CIS and Cornell Tech.”

Steve Jackson is a professor of information science and science and technology studies whose work applies a social science lens to developments in technology. Jackson has long been a leader in the areas of infrastructure studies and maintenance studies. Most recently, Jackson’s research has explored "computing on earth," with a focus on the ecological impact of computing. “He looks at interactions between citizen and state, between vendor and consumer, between haves and have nots, and he identifies new roadmaps for the thoughtful development of technology in our lives,” Foster said in announcing Jackson’s award. “Steve is one of our stars: a leading scholar who truly brings an interdisciplinary and human-centered approach to his work—very much the spirit of Bowers CIS.”

Thorsten Joachims is a professor of computer science and information science and associate dean for research in Cornell Bowers CIS. A fellow of both the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI), Joachims is widely recognized as a world leader in the field of machine learning. His early work on text categorization established support vector machines as a go-to method for text classification. While continuing work on related topics in machine learning and data mining, Joachims broadened his scope, making deep investments in recommendation systems, a technology that powers some of the most successful web-based technologies. Joachims is also a leader at Cornell, where he was instrumental in helping create the AI Radical Collaboration and the Cornell AI Initiative.

Kengo Kato is a professor of statistics and data science. Kato is widely known for his work in mathematical statistics, which has applications to many fields, including probability theory, economics, and machine learning. Kato has made path-breaking contributions to a variety of disciplines, solving multiple open problems and winning international awards in the process. His work related to the central limit theorem paved the way in the development of theory-guided inference methods for a broad class of high-dimensional statistical problems. Kato is now branching out with colleagues into new research areas, including notions of sparsity and statistical properties of Wasserstein distance.

Alexandra Silva is a professor of computer science and one of the world leaders in the area of formal verification. She is widely known for her leading work on co-algebraic techniques for modeling of systems. 

A color photo showing 3 people smiling for a photo, with the woman in the middle holding an award

“What’s remarkable about Alexandra is that she is not just a theoretician; she also applies these ideas to practical systems,” Foster said, citing Silva’s decade-long collaboration on the NetKAT system with Foster and Dexter Kozen, the Joseph Newton Pew Jr. Professor in Engineering in the Department of Computer Science. He also cited her work applying automata learning to automatically build models of protocols like TCP and QUIC, finding bugs in real-world implementations.

Teaching and Advising Awards

Larry Blume, interim associate dean for education in Cornell Bowers CIS, presented the excellence awards in teaching and advising.

Anne Bracy is a senior lecturer of computer science. She has taught nearly every computer science undergraduate major, introduced innovative methods to her classrooms, and shared them with colleagues in the Department of Computer Science. “Her evals are off the charts,” Blume said in announcing Bracy’s award. “She is an extremely active mentor and maintains contact with a large network of alumni.”  During her time at Cornell, Bracy has received the Tau Beta Pi Professor of the Year award (2019), the College of Engineering Excellence in Teaching Award (2017), and the Association of Computer Science Undergraduates’ Faculty of the Year award (2015-2016).

Joe Guinness is an associate professor of statistics and data science and director of undergraduate studies in the Department of Statistics and Data Science. An expert in modeling and analysis of large spatial-temporal datasets – particularly with applications in earth sciences – Guinness leads “Introduction to R Programming” (STSCI 2120/5120) and “Statistical Computing” (STSCI 4520/5520), guides undergraduate-level study courses, and advises on graduate-level research projects.

Karen Levy is an associate professor of information science who has taught six wide-ranging courses over the past six years.One of them is “Choices and Consequences in Computing” (INFO 1260), which she co-teaches with Jon Kleinberg, Tisch University Professor of Computer Science. 

A color photo of a man and woman shaking hands in front of a Cornell Bowers CIS, red backdrop

“The material in this class is very abstract, and she and Jon do spectacular work in opening it up to students,” Blume said. The proof, Blume added, is that enrollment for the course jumped nearly 50% – from below 500 to now more than 700 – in the first two years of the course. INFO 1260 is a gateway class to the major, and students often report that this class is what drew them in, Blume said. He cited the remarkably high class evaluations for INFO 1260 and another course Levy teaches – “Surveillance and Privacy” (INFO 4250).

Phoebe Sengers is a professor of information science who developed “Designing Technology for Social Impact” (INFO 4240), a course that Blume called a “key class in the information science design track.” The course covers what and how values can be embodied in design. Student work includes extensive readings, design workbooks and design mini-projects that exercise the design concepts students learn in the class. Starting with 38 students in its first run, it is now Information Science’s fifth largest course, Blume said, noting that students have called the course "transformative."

Robbert van Renesse is a professor of computer science who has made substantial intellectual contributions to the development of teaching methods for operating systems. Van Renesse has renovated the core course, CS 4410/5410 and its practicum, CS 4411/5411, and is developing a book around this material. “Van Renesse has had an amazing impact on how operating systems are taught today at Cornell and how the entire computer science department handles examinations,” wrote a nominating colleague.