Seniors Recognized For Exceptional Computer Science Knowledge

A prestigious computer science organization has honored two Harvard undergraduates, calling attention to their potential as academic researchers

Russell S. Cox '01 was named as male runner-up and Deborah J. Abel '01 was given an honorable mention by the Washington-based Computer Research Association (CRA), composed of more than 180 computer science departments nationwide.

"Deborah and Russ are both tremendously talented students in Computer Science...They are both superb teachers," wrote Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis '68 in an e-mail message. "These are the kinds of people that would come around once in a decade at most other schools; here we have two of them in the same class year!"

The computer science department nominates one female and one male undergraduate for the CRA award each year.

"I am glad I was able to support them both in the nomination process, and am very pleased that they are receiving this national recognition for their achievements," Lewis wrote.

Cox said he was "quite happy" to learn that he was a winner. He has extensive research experience in computer science. For four summers, he has worked at Bell Labs, completely revamping the company's graphics system. He is interested in the use of file system abstractions to simplify programs and the interfaces between them.

He also rewrote an introductory computer science textbook on programming languages. Cox is currently a teaching fellow in Professor Norman Ramsey's Computer Science 152, "Principles of Programming Languages."

This is Cox's third year as a teaching fellow in Computer Science 121, "Introduction to Formal Systems and Computation," taught by Lewis.

Abel also teaches CS-121. She said that her favorite part about being a teaching fellow is "office hours. I really like being able to explain things one on one. It's cool to see the moment of realization on a student's face. You can see you're making a difference."

Abel has been researching how the Linux language can behave poorly for an interactive user. For her senior thesis, she is looking at different categories of computer users.

She was "pleasantly surprised" to learn that she received honorable mention.

"It's nice to feel that somebody beside my thesis adviser thinks I do valuable work," she said.