Two CS students selected as Knights of St. Patrick

2/15/2017 Laura Schmitt

Written by Laura Schmitt

Two years ago, CS senior Sujay Khandekar attended the University of Illinois Knight of St. Patrick awards ceremony to see his friend Matthew Dierker (BS CS ’15) receive the College of Engineering’s highest student honor. “Matthew told me then that he expected to see me on the stage someday,” Khandekar recalled.

On March 11, Khandekar will be honored with fellow CS senior Dana Nikolaeva Chambourova and 11 other engineering students when they are inducted as Knights of St. Patrick, an honor that recognizes leadership, excellence in character, and exceptional contributions to the college and its students.

Originally from the San Francisco area, Khandekar has played a key role in several CS student-run events. As a sophomore, he served as sponsorship director for the second annual HackIllinois, helping raise more than $200,000 for the popular 36-hour programming and networking event that attracted more than 900 students from dozens of schools in 2015. 
Sujay Khandekar
Sujay Khandekar

In 2016, he co-chaired the annual Reflections | Projections tech conference, which also includes a puzzle competition, two job fairs, and an artificial intelligence hackathon. Not only did Khandekar organize and motivate a staff of more than 30 fellow CS students, he helped recruit industry speakers and build the conference’s registration and logistics software platform.

Khandekar primarily got involved with these events through the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) student organization, which he led as chair for a year (2015-16). He currently serves as an officer with the Women in Computer Science (WCS) organization, maintaining the group’s web site and resume book.

As if this isn’t enough, he also works as a course assistant for CS Assistant Professor Ranjitha Kumar’s Art of Web Programming (CS 498) course, and he does front-end programming on a mobile app data crawling project with her research group.

“It’s fun to stay involved,” said Khandekar, who will graduate in May 2018 with BS and MS degrees. “It’s definitely better than going home and watching NetFlix. I want to inspire [my fellow students] to keep doing good work, and I hope I’m an example to others about what’s possible.”

Senior Dana Nikolaeva Chambourova has had a huge impact on students across the entire college through her four-year involvement with the Engineering Employment Expo, one of the largest student-run career fairs in the country. Not only does the Expo help students find jobs and internships, it raises money to support many engineering student organizations and activities.

Chambourova has served Expo in a variety of leadership roles from year to year, including director. She and her team of nearly two dozen students have organized fairs that attract more than 500 companies and 3,000 students.

She led the Expo team in developing a new registration system that better facilitates interactions with students, and she helped refocus the team’s mission so the event would be more student focused.

Dana Nikolaeva Chambourova
Dana Nikolaeva Chambourova
“When I first joined Expo, decisions were made based on what was best for the organizing committee,” Chambourova explained. “We successfully shifted the [committee’s] mentality by reaching out to Engineering Council and the student societies in the college and finding out how we could best advocate for all the students.”

This past year, Chambourova used her Expo experience to help organize CS’s Reflections | Projections conference and job fairs, interacting with companies and managing registration and logistics. She has also served as an Engineering Learning Assistant, creating a syllabus, teaching, and mentoring freshman students enrolled in the College of Engineering’s required 4-week freshman course.

“I’m passionate about career fairs—I think they’re amazing,” said Chambourova, who will move to the San Francisco area after she graduates in May to work as a software engineer at Flexport, a freight forwarder and customs broker start-up company. “I’ve also found some of my best friends in school by working on the Expo.”

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This story was published February 15, 2017.