Tandon Faculty Honored with Teaching Awards

The School of Engineering bestows two major prizes on its faculty members for excellence in education. The Distinguished Teacher Award recognizes personal commitment to student learning, exemplary teaching skills, innovative and engaging lesson planning, and accessibility to students both in and out of the classroom; and the Jacobs Excellence in Education Award is given to individuals or groups who have consistently demonstrated educational innovation and excellence by winning grants, presenting at conferences, giving workshops, creating materials used by other educators, and publishing extensively, among other such activities. Each award is decided upon by a jury comprised of faculty members (themselves former recipients), students, and an alum.

Jacobs Excellence in Education Award

The 2016 recipient of the Jacobs Award — named for the late chemical engineer, alum, and board chair Joseph J. Jacobs — is Assistant Professor Justin Cappos of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering. Cappos’s focus is on improving real-world computer systems, and he has gained renown as the developer of Seattle, a peer-to-peer cloud computing platform with a broad deployment and community of users, and as the creator of PolyPasswordHasher, a password storage scheme that foils hackers. In 2013 he was named by Popular Science magazine as one of the year’s “Brilliant 10” young researchers. The nomination for the award praised Cappos as an enthusiastic and inspiring instructor.

Despite the many accolades he has amassed, Cappos is modest about his accomplishments. “At Tandon, none of us is working in a self-contained ivory tower,” he has said. “Here, I get to work with an amazing group of people who are doing practical things to make the world a better place, so I’m inspired every day.”

Assistant Professor Justin Cappos

Assistant Professor Justin Cappos

Distinguished Teaching Award

The 2016 Distinguished Teaching Award went to Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering Yao Wang, an expert in video coding, networked video applications, medical imaging, and pattern recognition. Her most recent work concerns algorithms that empower citizen journalists by identifying videos that depict an event from various angles and at various times. (In the case of a house fire, for example, the app she and her team are developing would seek out videos taken from all sides of the structure, as well as those capturing each moment, from first spark until the fire is fully extinguished.) The nomination for the award highlighted Wang’s deep commitment to graduate students in the School.

Wang considers her time in the classroom to be just as important as her time in the lab and her role as mentor to be as gratifying as her role as researcher. Her students reciprocate the fondness she has for them, as indicated by the fervent support her nomination as Distinguished Teacher received.

“Professors Cappos and Wang truly exemplify what we strive for here at Tandon,” Associate Dean of Academic Administration Kristen Day says. “They are representative of a faculty that is committed to conducting research that will improve the world and they take as seriously the responsibility to educate the next generation of scientists and engineers who will continue that mission.”