University of Virginia Computer Science Undergrads Nab 28 Research Awards Over 10 Years

May 22, 2008 — Computer science undergraduates from the University of Virginia have nabbed 28 Computer Research Association awards over the past 10 years, more than all but two other schools.

U.Va.'s total puts it well ahead of Harvard University (16 total awards), Cornell University (11 awards) and all other Ivy League schools, as well as schools with strong reputations in engineering like the California Institute of Technology (six awards), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (five), Stanford University (six), the University of California at Berkeley (22) and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (14). Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Washington each had just one more award than U.Va. over the decade.

The Computer Research Association awards are "the most competitive awards recognizing extraordinary research potential in undergraduate computer science," wrote Peter Lee, a professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon, on his blog CSDiary, which features a table with the award totals.

"Looking through the top 25, [the University of Washington and U.Va.] should feel pretty good about this," Lee wrote. "We’ve always had the sense that those programs were doing something right, based on how applicants to our Ph.D. program tend to look."

The 10-year totals of awards at all levels (winners, runner-ups, finalists and honorable mentions) were compiled from Computer Research Association records by Tom Horton, U.Va. professor of computer science. U.Va. students collected 26 honorable mention awards and two finalist awards out of the 555 total awards (at all levels) handed out since 1999.

"This 'ranking' is really exciting in that it confirms some things we believe about our program," Horton said. "We strongly promote undergrad research here, and as part of that culture we nominate students for this kind of award. In competition with other students, our students' research is frequently recognized as being very high-quality. And we've been consistent about this for at least the last 10 years."

U.Va. fourth-year Adrienne Felt won a 2008 finalist award for her research highlighting the security vulnerabilities of Facebook applications. U.Va. also had four honorable mention winners in 2008: Jennifer Dolson, Mahlon Graham, Nicholas Jalbert and Mark Rawls. Their research topics included using a wireless heartbeat monitor for identity and data protection, with military and healthcare applications; scanning text to determine authorship by focusing on the subconscious use of certain "context-free" words and phrases; and image scanning of Michelangelo's unfinished statue of St. Matthew to determine which types of chisels were used where.

— By Brevy Cannon