2015 Distinguished Educator Award

The CS @ ILLINOIS Distinguished Educator Award honors computer science alumni or faculty members who have made outstanding contributions to computer science education and research, and recognizes those who excel at motivating computer science students.

Nominations for the Distinguished Educator Award are solicited annually from alumni, faculty, and advisory board members. Nominate a fellow alumnus or faculty member today at my.cs.illinois.edu/submit.


Nancy Amato
PhD CS ‘95
Unocal Professor of CS and Engineering, Texas A&M University

Nancy Amato is the Unocal Professor of CS and Engineering (CSE) at Texas A&M University, where she co-directs the Parasol Lab. Her research interests include motion planning and robotics, computational biology and geometry, and parallel and distributed computing.

During her 20-year tenure at Texas A&M, she has graduated 16 PhD students, most of whom work in academia or research labs, and 25 master’s students. In addition, she has worked with more than 100 undergraduates and 10 high school students.

She has received a number of honors from Texas A&M for her teaching, including the 2015 CSE Award for Graduate Teaching Excellence, the 2013 Betty M. Unterberger Award for Outstanding Service to Honors Education, and a 2010 and 2011 Association of Former Students Distinguished Achievement Award for Teaching.

In addition, Amato received the 2013 IEEE Hewlett-Packard/Harriet B. Rigas Award, which recognizes an outstanding woman educator, for increasing the participation of underrepresented members in the computing research community. In 2014, the Computing Research Association presented Amato with the A. Nico Habermann Award for being a tireless and highly effective leader of programs that engage women and underrepresented minorities in computing research, particularly the CRA-W Distributed Research Experiences for Undergraduates program.

She is a Fellow of both the IEEE and the American Association for the Advancement of Science for her contributions to the algorithmic foundations of motion planning in robotics and computational biology.

She earned bachelor’s degrees in economics and mathematical sciences from Stanford and her master’s degree in CS from UC Berkeley. At Illinois, she studied under former CS/ECE Professor Franco Preparata.

Last updated 2015


Luis Ceze
PhD CS ’07
Torode Family Career Development Professor of Computer Science & Engineering, University of Washington

Associate Professor Luis Ceze is the Torode Family Career Development Professor of Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington, where his research focuses on computer architecture, programming languages, and operating systems to make computers easier to program, more reliable, and more energy efficient. Several of his research papers have been highlighted by the Communications of the ACM and selected as IEEE Micro Top Picks.

Recently, he has begun exploring how to make computers better by borrowing inspiration from biology—allowing computers to exploit approximate behavior, for example.

A faculty member at Washington since 2007, Ceze has taught courses on computer systems architecture, machine organization and assembly language, and  hardware/software interface, among others. In 2010, he received his campus’ ACM Undergraduate Teacher of the Year Award. He has advised 12 PhD and MS students, who have taken jobs at Cray, Google, Apple, Microsoft Research, Georgia Tech, University of Pennsylvania, Carnegie Mellon, and Cornell.

Ceze is a recipient of an NSF CAREER Award, a Sloan Research Fellowship, a Microsoft Research Faculty Fellowship, and the 2013 IEEE TCCA Young Computer Architect Award. He serves on the DARPA ISAT Committee that investigates new future research opportunities for DARPA. He also consults for Microsoft Research.

Before entering graduate school at Illinois, Ceze worked on the Blue Gene supercomputer project at IBM Research, which sparked his interest in computer systems architecture. As a doctoral student, he worked with CS Professor Josep Torrellas on improving the programmability of multicore systems.

Last updated 2015


Apu Kapadia
BS CS ’98, MS ’01, PhD ’05
Associate Professor, Indiana University

Apu Kapadia is an associate professor of Computer Science and Informatics at Indiana University, where he is investigating topics related to security and privacy from a systems and human-factors perspective. He is particularly interested in pervasive, mobile, and wearable computing; crowdsourcing; anonymity; and peer-to-peer networks.

During his six years at Indiana, Kapadia received several NSF research grants, including a CAREER Award, to explore sensible privacy controls and feedback mechanisms that enable people to effectively manage the dissemination of their private information as recorded by sensors and their mobile devices. Most recently, he received a grant to develop new technologies to improve the privacy of people captured in images taken with wearable cameras.

Two of his papers relating to accountable anonymity were named runners-up for the 2009 Outstanding Research in Privacy Enhancing Technologies Award. His work on usable privacy controls received the Honorable Mention Award (runner-up for Best Paper) at the 2007 Conference on Pervasive Computing.

A recipient of a 2014 Google Research Award, Kapadia also received the Indiana University Trustees Teaching Award in 2013. He served as program co-chair of the 2015 USENIX Summit on Information Technologies for Health (HealthTech), as well as the Privacy Enhancing Technologies Symposium (PETS) for both 2015 and 2016.

As a graduate student at Illinois, Kapadia earned a Department of Energy-sponsored High-Performance Computer Science Fellowship for his dissertation research on trustworthy communication. Before joining the IU faculty, Kapadia was a postdoctoral research fellow at Dartmouth College and a member of the technical staff at MIT Lincoln Lab.

Last updated 2015


Paul Saylor
Professor Emeritus, University of Illinois

CS Professor Emeritus Paul Saylor joined the Illinois faculty in 1967, after earning his PhD in mathematics from Rice University, where he studied under Professor Jim Douglas, Jr. During the next 34 years, Saylor conducted pioneering work in numerical analysis, solving large-scale scientific problems in areas ranging from geophysics to medical imaging. He also taught numerical analysis classes.

Although he officially retired from Illinois in 2001, Saylor continued his research, working on a Department of Energy project that combined software and astrophysics to simulate core collapse supernova, and he served as principal investigator for the NASA Earth and Space Grand Challenge on Simulating the Merger of Binary Neutron Stars. He also spent two years as a program officer in NSF’s mathematical science division.

In 2004, he began an association with the Louisiana State University Center for Computation and Technology, where he continued to investigate computational mathematics and numerical analysis.

Saylor and his wife Cynthia were close friends with Illinois alumnus Gene Golub (BS Math ‘53, MA Stats ‘54, PhD Math ‘59, Hon DSc ‘91), the late Stanford CS faculty member and pioneer in the numerical analysis field. Golub endowed a CS faculty chair at Illinois in honor of Saylor’s kindness, support, and generosity, as well as his dedication to his students and the academic life.

The Saylors’ two sons are Illinois alumni—Gerard (MS Library Information Science ‘96) and Gerrit (MS CS ‘95).

Last updated 2015