Awards 2019 - 2020

Undergraduate and Graduate Awards

(Galileo Circle Scholars, the University of Arizona's finest undergraduate and graduate science students, represent the tremendous breadth of research interests in the College of Science)

Galileo Circle Scholar: Reyan Ahmed

Reyan is a 4th year student pursuing a PhD in Computer Science with a minor in mathematics. Reyan earned his undergraduate diploma from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology. Reyan's research mainly focuses on network visualization. In his free time, Reyan enjoys reading books and watching movies. His career goal is to become a research professor. 


Galileo Circle Scholar: Andres Barragan

Andres is a senior pursuing a Bachelor's degree in Computer Science with minors in Physics, Mathematics and Electrical and Computer Engineering. He was born and raised in Tucson, Arizona and chose Computer Science because programming is enjoyable. As a student, Andres has done research with Dr. Kobus Barnard and Dr. Russell. Research with Dr. Barnard consisted in working with machine learning that uses University of Arizona patient data to create an optimized neural network for eye blink detection. Research with Dr. Russell Witte consisted in Implementing software and conducted experiments in regard to collecting transcranial acousto-electrical signals. Aside from his research, Andres also led a 3D Printing Club and Computer Vision Group in Arizona Autonomous and helped out with 3D Printed Mask Holders for the Essential Workers. In his free time Andres enjoys playing the piano and games. His career goal is to become a researcher in the computer science field. Andres would like to give a special thanks to  Dr. Russell Witte for allowing him to participate in his research lab for so long. He would also like to thank Dr. Kobus for accepting him into his lab for his Honors Thesis.


Galileo Circle Scholar: Brandon Erickson

Brandon is a junior pursuing a Bachelors of Science degree in Computer Science with a minor in Creative Writing. He is from San Diego, CA and came to the UofA because he felt it was close enough to go home, while still getting a new experience. Brandon chose Computer Science, because he's always had an interest in programming. Although he'd never programmed before attending the UofA, programing has taught him so much that he has been able to flourish as a programmer and understand advanced topics with the help of the amazing professors. Brandon worked as an Undergraduate Teaching Assistant for CS course 210. In addition, he also has done a lot of community service through his fraternity, Theta Tau; such as road cleanups around Tucson and working with Ronald McDonald to make sandwiches for the homeless. Outside of the typical learning environment, he likes to take his projects from classes a step further. He also plays volleyball for one of the UofAs intramural teams. Brandon, is currently a software developer for Eller Tech Core, a small software development team. He really enjoys tinkering with new technologies to understand them and explore the opportunities they provide us. He mostly works with Virtual Reality, but he has worked with 3D modeling, the Azure Kinect and has done some mobile development as well. Brandon'€™s career goals are still not defined, but his current strongest interest is in the intersection between hardware and software. He finds low-level programming to be quite rewarding as the code he wrote can be very flexible in what it does. He would love to work for a company in which he can write the drivers that allow the hardware, such as a keyboard or monitor, to interact with various operating systems. Brandon would like to thank Dr. Jonathan Misurda and Dr. Eric Anson for all their support and for helping him realized that the computer Science industry has many opportunities. He says the few classes he has taken with them have proven to be his favorite courses at the UofA and he attributes that to both professors'€™ love and passion for the material. They offer an immense amount of support which has allowed him to make strong student/professor relationships which have aided in his studies more than anything else could have.



Galileo Circle Scholar: Chavoosh Ghasemi

Chavoosh is a 4 year student pursuing a PhD in Computer Science. He was born and raised in Iran and before joining Internet Research Lab (IRL) at the University of Arizona, he earned his bachelor and master degrees in Engineering of Information Communication and Technology. Chavoosh currently is the Activity Chair for Computer Science Grad Council. In his free times he enjoys playing and composing music and practices different types of sports. His career goals are mitigating the main inefficiencies and drawbacks of the current Internet by reconsidering its architecture and design. Chavoosh would like to thank,  Dr. Beichuan Zhang for all the support and encouragement!







Galileo Circle Scholar: Ben Jacobsen

Ben is a junior and is double majoring in Computer Science and Mathematics. He spent his first two years of undergrad at Central New Mexico Community College in Albuquerque, where he was born. After getting his Associates degree in Mathematics, Ben transferred to UofA because of its unique combination of high level research, proximity to home, and generous financial aid. His interest in Computer Science sparked through philosophy. He states "the two fields have a surprising amount of overlap! Learning about formal logic and philosophy of math led me to explore programming and discover how fun it is to solve problems with computers."€ In Fall of 2019, Ben started working as an undergraduate research assistant for Dr. Stephen Kobourov, where their work focused on developing a novel method for visualizing set systems that are too large for traditional methods like Euler diagrams. Ben states "€œDoing undergraduate research has been a great experience and he would like to thank Professor Rusell Lewis for putting him in contact with Dr. Kobourov!" In his free time, Ben enjoys reading, playing piano, and playing strategy games. After getting his BA, Ben hopes to study computer science in graduate school before ultimately entering the cybersecurity industry. He is particularly interested in cryptography and digital privacy, and he would be very happy to find employment doing research in either area.



Galileo Circle Scholar: Grace Kaylor 

Grace is a senior pursuing a major in Computer Science and a minor in Linguistics. She is from Queen Creek, Arizona and chose to study at the UofA because she wanted to attend a college within the state. She toured the UofA campus and really liked the atmosphere. Grace decided to major in Computer Science because she was interested in the challenge of programming and the doors that it could open. Plus she went to a STEM High School, so she knew she wanted to major in a related field. As a Computer Science student, Grace became an undergraduate Teaching Assistant for CS course 245 and also worked as a desk assistant for one of the dorms on campus. In her free times, Grace enjoys reading and hiking. She currently is a student intern at a research institute and is also working on an honors thesis that focuses on detecting bias in contextual word embedding. Her goal is to maintain a stable job that helps her grow as a programmer, and incorporate her interests in Linguistics and travel. She is thankful for the support her family and friends have given her throughout the years.


Galileo Circle Scholar: Cameron Kurz 

Cameron is a Senior pursuing a Bachelor degree in Computer Science and a certificate in Entrepreneurship. He was born in Anchorage, AK and was raised overseas in Indonesia, Egypt, and Azerbaijan. Cameron followed his older sister to the U of A after spending some summers in Tucson and seeing how great the U of A was – the beautiful campus and weather also didn't hurt! Initially, he started pursuing a degree in Mechanical Engineering. He was introduced to programming through ECE 175 – and it immediately sparked his interest and he fell in love; he hasn't looked back since! Cameron has done a lot of work with the community through his involvement in the Blue Chip Leadership Program and as a member of the Theta Tau Engineering Fraternity. He spent a lot of his free time just learning about various interesting topics trying his best to understand how the world works. He also enjoyed time with friends and family, travel, music, snowboarding, and following many sports. Cameron has been working in Dr. Bob Wilson's cognitive psychology lab for almost three years now. His research focuses on using pupillometry as a tool to non-invasively understand the workings of the brain and predict human cognitive performance. He also did the McGuire Entrepreneurship program last year where his team won the Grand Prize at the end-of-year New Venture Competition. Cameron would like to pursue a career in entrepreneurship collaborating to solve big problems. Cameron would like to say a special thank you to his research mentor and friend Bryan Kromenacker, who has taught him a lot in his time at the U of A. A special thank you also goes to Dr. Kobus Barnard who has been a fantastic mentor and honors thesis advisor. Dr. Barnard has helped him to greatly improve his communication, reflection, and understanding of the bigger picture – all tools vital to solving big problems.


Galileo Circle Scholar: Bianca Lara

Bianca is a junior pursuing a double major in Computer Science and Mathematics, with minors in Spanish and Statistics and Data Science. She was born and raised in Tucson, Arizona and decided to attend the UofA because it seemed like the best in-state option; both in terms of academic and scholarship opportunities. Bianca, initially had enrolled in the Physics major at the UofA. However, the summer before starting college she participated in CSSI, a three-week coding camp in Seattle hosted by Google and that sparked her interest and ultimately led her to switch majors into computer science. Her sophomore year, Bianca participated in the Section Leader program for the CS department (now renamed as Undergraduate Teaching Assistant (UGTA) and led for CS courses 110 and 245; which she found them both to be very valuable experiences. In addition, that same year she applied to become a Women in Information and Computer Science (WICS) club officer and now  holds the position of Co-President along with Hsin-Yu Chen. In her junior year, she started working for the MMT Observatory as a technical assistant and participated in a Women in STEM Mentorship program and held meetings with 3 Freshmen in the CS Department; providing guidance and recommendations on how to approach college life and academics at the UA. If that wasn'€™t enough, she also interned at Google twice in their Engineering Practicum program and this summer, she will be an intern in their SWE program. Outside of school, Bianca tries to relax and maintain a work-life balance. With her busy academic and work schedule, she usually takes some time to herself to de-stress by exercising and playing video games. Her career goals are to work in the tech industry for a few years then return to school to pursue her graduate degree. While Bianca has yet to choose a specific area to focus her degree on, she thinks that working for a few years will give her some time to reflect and explore all the possible opportunities.



Galileo Circle Scholar: Katy Williams

Katy is a 3rd year grad student pursuing a PhD in Computer Science. She is from Apex, North Carolina and earned her bachelor'€™s degree in Computer Science and a minor degree in Mathematics from Davidson College. Katy initially started as a math major, then switched into Computer Science when she realized she was enrolling in Computer Science courses for all her upper-level math electives. When applying to grad school, she chose the UofA because of the close-knit, friendly department and all of the outdoor activities available in Tucson. Katy is currently the secretary and social chair for the Computer Science Graduate Student Council (CSGSC) and has been elected to be the president for Fall 2020. In her free time, Katy enjoys swimming competitively and baking. Her career goal is to become a professor at a teaching-focused liberal arts college, like her alma mater Davidson College. 



Undergraduate Research: Matthew Romero

Mathew is a senior pursuing a BS in Computer Science and a Minor in Mathematics. He is from  Winslow, AZ (a small town in the northeastern part of Arizona) and chose to study at the University of Arizona because of the scholarships offered to him and his desire to explore Tucson; a place he had never been to before. His interest in programming is what thrived him into Computer Science. Matthew has served as a math tutor and web developer for the university and he has executed some research under Dr. Michelle Strout, testing the performance benefits of utilizing CUDA in HydroFrame, a large-scale hydrological framework used to run simulations on watersheds in the United States. In his free time he enjoys hiking, playing video games, tutoring math and teaching others programming concepts. When he graduates he will be working for google, where he will continue to improve his programming skills and enjoy life in the Bay Area. Matthew would like to thank his family for supporting and encouraging him through the best and the worst times. He will continue to make them proud!

Undergraduate Teaching Award: All Spring 2020 Teaching Assistants and Tutors!

The Department of Computer Science would like to thank all our TAs and tutors for providing high quality services throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Your hard work and adaptability during the semester confirms what we already knew - our TAs and tutors are the best! 






From left to right (Abhishek Agarwal, Samantha Mathis, Suyang Chen, Molly Opheim, Md Arfan Uddin, Cade Marks, Garrett Fenton, Allison Tarr, Clark Penado, John Kounelis, Riley Wagner, Tatiana Kapos, Samantha Cox, Ryan Luu, Jasur Iskandar, Kaylee Price, Aaron Alexander, Brandon Kaplan, Angel Aguayo, Kiara Hernandez, Vincent Truong, Sean Callahan, Annie Gao)







From left to right (Jordan Siaha, Steven Eiselen, Illyoung Choi, Katy Williams, Wenkang Zhou, George Barbosa, Zheng Tang, Prathyusha Butti, Md Ashiqur Rahman, Fan Luo)







From left to right (Jack Contreras, Maura Johansson, Jesse Lui, Travis Banken, Andrew Morales, Even Kuo, Seamus Goldman, Graham Walker, Ivan Webber, Sebastian Tu, Jared Jee, Connor Brett)


Outstanding Senior Award (Fall 2019): Meredith Larabee

Meredith earned her Bachelors degree in Computer Science in Fall of 2019. She is originally from Tucson, AZ and moved to Tempe, AZ after graduating to work full-time for GoDaddy. Prior to earning her degree in CS she obtained a bachelors degree in Chemistry and a master's degree in Educational Leadership and Policy from the University of Utah.During her time as a CS student, Meredith worked as a section leader for CSC 110 and a course coordinator for CSC 120. She also served as the Vice President of the Women in Information and Computer Science club (WICS). Outside of school She loves to cook, travel, watch tv, and listen to podcasts. Meredith did a semester of research in Dr. Saumya Debray's lab on an android security project. She did a summer internship at Bank of America in Pennington, NJ and a summer internship at GoDaddy in Tempe, AZ. Her career goal is to spend her first several years after graduation working as a software engineer. One day she'd like to go back to school for further education in computer science and go on to teach computer science at a college or university. She would like to thank her CSC 110 instructor Allison Obourn, her family, and her wife Kylee for all of their support in earning this degree!



Outstanding Senior Award (Spring 2020): John Kounelis

John is a senior pursuing a BS in Computer Science with a minor in Mathematics.  He is from San Diego, California and came to the UofA because he has a lot of family who are alumni and all of them had a great experience here. John decided to major in computer science because he'€™d always loved working with computers and felt that CS was a good fit for him. John has worked in multiple positions within the computer science department. He has worked as a Student Assistant to the CS Academic Services Office, a student Web Master, an Undergraduate Teaching Assistant (UGTA), he was Coordinator for CS course 252 and the CS IdeaLab and has also been involved with the College of Science Ambassadors. In his free time, John enjoys going to the gym, skateboarding, and riding motorcycles. John had an internship with BAE Systems during the summer of 2019 and his career goal is to work in the industry as a Software Engineer and eventually obtain a master's degree. John would like to thank his parents for all the support they have given him along his college experience!


Graduate Student Research Award: Staci Smith

Staci is a 5th year student pursuing a PhD in Computer Science with a minor in Mathematics. She grew up in Sierra Vista, Arizona and after graduating community college, she received a scholarship to attend the University of Arizona and got her undergraduate degree in Mathematics and Computer Science. Staci decided to pursue a PhD at the University of Arizona to work with Dr. Dave Lowenthal on high-performance computing research. She served as an undergraduate teaching assistant for Math 100 and Math 425A here at the University of Arizona. In her free time she enjoys lifting weights at the gym, cooking, baking bread, and reading. Staci has done summer internships at Intel and Google between 2013 and 2016 and she would like to work as a software engineer and become experienced enough to transition to non-profit, charitable, or government organization where she can contribute to social change. Staci would like to thank Dr. Dave Lowenthal for his mentorship.  She would also like to thank her husband Michael and her parents for their support.



Graduate Student Service Award: Spencer Krieger

Spencer is a 4th year PhD student who works on Bioinformatics research with his PhD advisor John Kececioglu. He has a special interest in algorithms and how they can be applied to problems with biological motivations. He is currently researching protein secondary structure prediction. Spencer is the Vice President of the CS Graduate Student Council, member of the CS Dept. Graduate Affairs Committee, and the Graduate Student Liaison of the CS Dept. Faculty Recruiting Committee. In his free time, he likes to play racquet sports including tennis, racquetball, squash, badminton, and pickleball. He plays a lot of board games (in 2019 he played 450 board games). Spencer is unsure of his career goals at the moment. He does plan doing research in algorithms in bioinformatics, but is unsure if he wants to be in academia or industry.


Graduate Student Teacher Award: Steven Eiselen

Steven is a final year grad student pursuing his masters degree of Science in Computer Science, Originally from NYC, Steven earned an Associates Degree in Liberal Arts at Nassau Community College in 2008, a Bachelors Degree in Computer Science at UArizona in Fall 2016, and is pending a Masters Degree in Computer Science in Spring 2020. He decided to study Computer Science in pursuit of a longtime quest involving how to implement intelligent agents and the computer simulation worlds they inhabit, exploring the limits for how realistic and detailed such simulations could be. This encompasses Agent-Oriented Artificial Intelligence as well as Procedural Content Generation, respectively. TL;DR: "1/2 The Sims, 1/2 The Matrix". Steven's service record includes 4 semesters as a CSC 445 TA (Summer 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2019), one semester as a CSC 345 and CSC 437 TA (both Spring 2020), and one semester as a CSC 245 instructor (Summer 2017). He is well known as a mentor to Computer Science students both under his tutelage and otherwise, with a passion for helping students empower themselves towards achieving success in their CS studies and personal growth. He has also served in a variety of academic organizations including past M.S. Representative of the Computer Science Graduate Student Council, past Vice President of the UArizona ACM Chapter, and past Director of Education for InnovateUA. Having been a workaholic for one reason or another: he has recently picked up new hobbies towards a post-student lifestyle: of which includes country dancing (Arizona Two-Step and Line), general physical fitness, graphic art and design, indie game development, and creative coding.    Steven was employed at the Arizona Laboratory for Immersive Visualization Environments (AZ-LIVE) for most of his undergraduate career, serving as a Lab Assistant and Visualization Specialist. For much of his graduate career: he assisted with the launch and operation of the UArizona Center for Digital Humanities (CDH), serving as a Graduate Assistant among other roles. Ironically, uncertain at present: though a current ideal goal is to continue teaching Computer Science, perhaps at a community college, while exploring opportunities with consulting and possibly entrepreneurship.    Regarding the received award: he insists it is necessary to acknowledge three Professors whose mentorship and personal interest in his success not only empowered him: but were the investment made for which he became a TA to pay forward. They are Professors Christopher Poulios and John Earnest (Emeritus) of Nassau Community College, and Dr. Alon Efrat of UArizona.

Staff Awards




College of Science Staff Excellence Award: Eric Collins

Eric joined the Department of Computer Science in January 2019. Eric’s role as Principal Information Technology Support Analyst requires detailed planning and analysis of department technology needs. Eric has made an immediate and positive impact including upgrading our many systems and planning for growth and change. Eric goes above and beyond to ensure that IT supports the department's mission and priorities. 

Faculty Awards




Faculty Teaching Award: Dr. Eric Anson

In 2019 Eric taught two large courses for the first time, including CSC 101 on very short notice, doing a great job overall. We appreciate his willingness to step up when needed and invest substantive energy and innovation incorporating collaborative learning methods into his classes. We applaud these impressive contributions to the department!




Faculty Research Award: Dr. Mihai Surdeanu

Mihai had a phenomenal research year in 2019.  He continued working on multiple large grants, submitted others, and supervised many students, postdocs, and senior researchers. His research enterprise yielded on the order of a dozen publications in 2019, with about five of these being in top venues, others being at workshops associated with top venues, and to top it all off, one received a best demo award. Kudos to Mihai!




Faculty Service Award: Dr. Michelle Strout

Michelle did an amazing amount of departmental, college, and external service in 2019, while also serving as acting department head in spring 2019. Impressively, she did all this while being very active in her research and highly effective in her teaching. We are thrilled to be able to recognize her contributions to the department!

Outstanding Contribution Awards

(This award is for exceptional contributions to the mission of the UA CS department.)



Outstanding Contribution: Dr. Stephen Kobourov

We celebrate Stephen's recent exceptional contributions to CS. Stephen has led a large and vibrant research group with amazing productivity including multiple strong papers and a best paper award (*). Stephen has also led CS involvement in TRIPODS, Data7, and the CoS lecture series. Fittingly, Stephen, along with Christian Collberg, also received a most influential paper award this year for their 2003 paper on graph based visualization of software evolution.

*Symmetry Detection and Classification in Drawings of Graphs,” 27th International Symposium on Graph Drawing and Network Visualization.