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Professor Michael Ernst honored for extraordinary contributions to student mentorship

Michael ErnstAllen School professor Michael Ernst has earned the 2018 CRA-E Undergraduate Research Faculty Mentoring Award from the Computing Research Association. The award recognizes faculty who provide exceptional mentorship and support to student researchers. Ernst is a member of the Allen School’s Programming Languages & Software Engineering (PLSE) group.

Recipients of the CRA-E mentorship award are chosen based on their track record of providing a high-quality, rewarding research experience to aspiring computer scientists. The CRA cited Ernst’s combination of research accomplishments and caring demeanor in its award announcement, which also praised his record of mentorship across multiple institutions, projects, and publications. To date, Ernst has mentored 123 undergraduate students over the course of his research career, co-authoring more than 50 publications with them along the way.

“He is typically described as a caring and careful mentor who is selfless, patient, quality-driven, and student-focused,” the CRA said of Ernst, noting that nearly half of his undergraduate mentees have gone on to attend graduate school in computer science.

Ernst’s success can be attributed in part to his holistic approach to student mentorship. In addition to providing direct guidance to mentees, he cultivates an environment and a team that is welcoming and supportive of young researchers — including instructing graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, and faculty colleagues on how to successfully work with undergraduates. He also incorporates state-of-the-art research tools and project-based exploration in his undergraduate classes.

“I’m passionate about mentoring because doing research as an undergraduate changed the course of my career and my life,” said Ernst. “I love making new discoveries — and I get a vicarious thrill from helping others to experience that same wonder.”

Ernst’s approach has made him a role model for the next generation of computer science faculty. As one former mentee who went on to become a faculty member said, “I strive to use as much of prof. Ernst’s mentoring style in my own advising as I can.” If imitation is the highest form of flattery, you can’t get much higher praise than that.

In addition to Ernst, the CRA recognized Catherine Putonti, a professor of computer science and biology at Loyola University Chicago and the Stritch School of Medicine, with a 2018 faculty mentoring award. Read the full CRA announcement here.

Congratulations, Mike — and thank you for delivering an exceptional research experience to so many Allen School undergraduates!