Invited Talk

Reflections on 50 years of working with CS undergraduates
Andries van Dam
Brown University

In this talk, I will discuss my work with undergraduate students as teaching and research assistants (TAs and RAs) since the mid-1960s. I first did research myself as an undergraduate in engineering, and then, as a beginning grad student, I discovered Computer Science -- in the early 60's, a brand new field. Indeed it was so new that almost everything we learned or worked on was research. As a lark, in 1962 I taught high school students and their teachers about computers and programming in a summer course I designed, and fell in love with teaching, deciding to go into academia rather than industry.

When I came to Brown, CS was just getting started as a track within Applied Math, and there were no grad students in CS. I started working with Applied Math and Engineering undergraduates who at least had some programming experience. Those undergraduates were both my TAs and worked with me on my research projects as RAs. At that time it was radical, even frowned upon, to use undergraduates in either TA or RA capacity, but my "farm club" system of involving undergraduates in active, hands-on, learning by doing has been adopted over the years by our entire CS department, and more than 40 of my former undergraduate TAs and RAs have gone into teaching of one sort or another; others have helped start and lead companies. All these high achievers got an early start at teaching and doing independent research.