Date Posted: 10/15/2021

Anil Damle and Rachit Agarwal, both assistant professors in the Computer Science department, have each received the James and Mary Tien Excellence in Teaching Award from the College of Engineering. For the occasion, Lynden Archer, Joseph Silbert Dean of Engineering, conveyed "many congratulations to the recipients of this year's College of Engineering Excellence in Teaching and Advising Awards. We are proud of their commitment to our students and their contributions to excellence in effective learning."

Reached for comment, Damle responded: "I am honored to receive this award. Teaching is a core component of my job and one of the reasons that I pursued an academic career. I strive to have a positive impact on students experience here at Cornell and I feel privileged to be recognized in this way.” Likewise, Agarwal was keen to say: "I am extremely honored to hear that students are enjoying my teaching style. I enjoy communicating ideas to students. The enjoyment I get out of those moments when students have an 'aha' moment upon understanding a new concept is hard to put in words. These moments are precisely the reason I love my job."

Discussing his approach to teaching, Damle remarks: "Fundamentally, my role as a teacher is to act in the service of students learning. For example, this includes ensuring crisp and clear exposition of technical material and ideas to the students in lectures and through discussions. It also implies crafting homework, exams, and projects that help reinforce the material covered in class and enable opportunities for students to explore beyond what we cover in lecture. At a more macro level, it is important to spark excitement about the material: why are the topics we are discussing interesting, important, and relevant. Collectively, these points help empower students to learn and, hopefully, ensures that they have the technical foundations for further study and the motivation to pursue it."

Meanwhile, Agarwal shared reflections on his pedagogy: "My teaching style is quite conceptual—I am in an area that evolves rapidly, and different industries make very different design decisions. Thus, rather than focusing on how a particular implementation works, I try to have students understand the very core of the problem, the underlying concepts and design tradeoffs in solutions, and trends that may lead to different design decisions." He described the intellectual climate of his classroom: "I also care a lot about stress-free learning. My courses have no deadlines (for homework and projects). This serves two purposes: (1) students work on homework and projects according to their schedule, thus allowing them to think deeply about problems; and (2) this turns students' focus from 'submitting work that would get them the best grade' to 'having deeper discussions with their peers and course staff to truly understand the various possible solutions.'" Based on the results of this award, he added, "it appears that students like such a stress-free learning environment."

Damle spoke of his favorite classes to teach: "I always enjoy teaching our core numerical analysis/scientific computing courses at the undergraduate and graduate level, and this includes CS 4220 and CS 6210. In addition, over the past few years I revamped and revived CS 3220 to provide a systematic introduction to many mathematical concepts that are leveraged in many of our upper division courses. I certainly enjoyed getting to go through that process and teach the course."

Agarwal underscored his preferred courses: "I love teaching computer networks (CS4450) and operating systems (CS4410), two of the core courses in computer science. I also enjoy teaching graduate courses on these topics."

For additional coverage of Damle and Agarwal, see: