2016 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.


Thomas Glen Dietterich
MS CS '79
Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Oregon State University

An Oregon State University faculty member since 1985, Thomas Dietterich is one of the founders of the field of machine learning. He is best known for his work on ensemble methods in machine learning, including the development of error-correcting output coding. Dietterich also invented important reinforcement learning algorithms, including the MAXQ method for hierarchical reinforcement learning.

During his faculty career, Dietterich published more than 130 journal articles, written two books, supervised the research of 47 graduate students, and obtained more than $30 million in research grants. His research results have been applied to a range of real-world problems, including drug design, electronics manufacturing, ecological modeling, and natural resource management.

Dietterich co-founded and served as chief scientist for three companies—Strands, Smart Desktop, and BigML. He’s also devoted many years of service to the research community as president of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI) and founding president of the International Machine Learning Society.

He is a fellow of ACM, AAAI, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He earned his doctorate from Stanford University in 1984.

Last updated 2016


Edward Reingold
Professor, University of Illinois (1970 - 2000)
Professor, Illinois Institute of Technology

A highly regarded computer science teacher, mentor, and administrator, Edward Reingold has a PhD from Cornell University and spent the majority of his career (30+ years) as a CS @ ILLINOIS faculty member, where he made significant research and education contributions to data structures and analysis of algorithms.

His work has impacted computer science theory and has applications to many disciplines. His seminal paper on graph drawing via force-directed placement is used today to draw networks throughout the sciences and social sciences.

In addition to his research, Reingold has written several textbooks, including Combinatorial Algorithms, which was translated into Japanese, Russian and Polish, and Calendrical Calculations—soon to be in a fourth edition—the definitive reference for computer implementations of calendars. He wrote the calendar/diary portions of GNU Emacs and contributed to other Emacs packages, as well.

After retiring from Illinois, Reingold became CS department head at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT), serving for six years before returning to the IIT faculty as a professor of Computer Science & Applied Mathematics. He is an ACM Fellow.

In 2014, Reingold was featured in a story by the British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC) about Operation Match, the world’s first computer dating program. He met his wife Ruth through Operation Match in the spring of 1966. At the time of her death last April, they had been married more than 47 years; they have four daughters and 12 grandchildren.

Last updated 2016


Romit Roy Choudhury
MS ECE '03, PhD CS '06
Associate Professor, University of Illinois

As a faculty member first at Duke University and now at Illinois, Romit Roy Choudhury has made impactful contributions to wireless networking, mobile sensing, and mobile computing technology. Working with sensors embedded in smartphones, wearable devices, and other “things”, he and his students are exploring projects focused on indoor localization, gesture recognition, motion data analytics, and the Internet of Things (IoT).

Sensors are like lenses into human lives—they provide timely data about position, activity, and environment, and when fused carefully, can enable new applications. Roy Choudhury’s team has combined sensors with WiFi and computer vision to enable real-time augmented reality, where users can look at their surroundings through smartphones and observe annotation on objects in real time.

In sports-gesture recognition, they infer and track the arm motion of a basketball player only using sensors from the smartwatch. They are also building a radio that communicates between mobile devices through vibrations, an application for merging IoT devices.

In 2015, Roy Choudhury received the ACM SIGMOBILE Rockstar Award for significant contributions to mobile sensing and wireless networking with an emphasis on location and cross-layer protocols. Prior to that, he had received a few other awards, including the IBM and Google Faculty Awards, Best Paper Awards, the NSF CAREER Award, and the Hoffner Krippner Innovations in Engineering Award.

Last updated 2016


Yizhou Sun
PhD CS '12
Assistant Professor, UCLA

Yizhou Sun joined the computer science faculty at UCLA in July 2016. Her principal research interest is in mining information and social networks, and more generally in data mining, machine learning, and network science, with a focus on modeling novel problems and proposing scalable algorithms for real-world applications.

She started her academic career in 2013 as an assistant professor at Northeastern University’s College of Computer and Information Science, where she earned an NSF CAREER award in 2015 to analyze heterogeneous information networks by addressing human factor-related questions. Sun has published more than 60 papers in journals and at major conferences; she has also co-authored a book—Mining Heterogeneous Information Networks: Principles and Methodologies—with CS Professor Jiawei Han, her former doctoral advisor.

As a CS @ ILLINOIS graduate student, she presented data mining tutorials at several premier conferences, including the EDBT 2009, SIGMOD 2010, and KDD 2010, and she has continued teaching tutorials as a faculty member. She received the 2012 ACM SIGKDD Best Student Paper Award, 2013 ACM SIGKDD Doctoral Dissertation Award, and 2013 Yahoo ACE (Academic Career Enhancement) Award.

Last updated 2016