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Winning Awards in Computer Science: Inside Academia

Winning Awards in Computer Science: Inside Academia main image

A computer science professor at George Washington University, Dr C Dianne Martin has a pretty impressive CV – one which includes helping put men on the moon while working for IBM on the Apollo program, and several awards including the Association of Women in Computing Augusta Ada Lovelace Award, awarded to an outstanding woman in the computer field, and the Bender Outstanding Teaching Award from GWU.

With characteristic modesty, Dr Martin sees her achievements from a different perspective: "I think I was just in the right place at the right time. Computers were just coming into their own when I graduated from college, but there were very few computer science majors. Computer companies like IBM sought math majors who could be trained to become programmers."

With her Bachelor of Arts degree in economics and mathematics education from McDaniel College, Dr Martin was the ideal candidate.

Her first professional experience was formative: "I got my start at IBM where I learned how to program in assembly language and FORTRAN. As a result of that experience I enrolled in a master's program in computer science at the University of Maryland. As soon as I finished my master's degree, I started teaching at university level. 

"A friend and I also became very interested in teaching children and then about computers. This led to a PhD in education and an appointment as an Assistant Professor in engineering at GWU."

Evolving interests

Dr Martin has taught at GWU for 25 years. Over this period her interests in teaching and research have evolved and she has focused on a range of areas, including introducing computers into schools, preparing teachers to use technology, the development and evaluation of multimedia, computer ethics, and most recently, Internet policy.

She believes her contact with international students has been particularly important: "Located in the US Capitol of Washington, DC, GWU has had a long tradition of attracting high quality graduate students from all over the world.  This has been especially true in the School of Engineering and Applied Science where we have graduate students from 32 different countries enrolled in our masters and PhD programs. I have always found international students to bring new ideas and frames of reference to the computer science courses that I teach.

"Most recently I have been teaching in the internet policy area and since the Internet is both global and borderless, international students often have very different perspectives on issues such as regulation, intellectual property, cybercrime, and free speech. It is very exciting to engage students from many different backgrounds in these discussions."

There is no doubt that Dr Martin's experience of teaching and supporting international students has been a very positive one: "I recall when I had several students from Korea in my graduate multimedia class. Well-known as an artistic design capitol, these students from Seoul brought excellent design skills to their multimedia projects that were different from other students. In fact, one of them did a dissertation on the role of aesthetics in multimedia, something we'd never seen before."

Importance of internationalization

Interestingly, Dr Martin's engagement with international students took a different direction when, in 2005, she took a leave of absence from GWU to be Dean of the College of Information Technology at Zayed University in the United Arab Emirates, founded to prepare Emirati women for leadership positions in the country.

Always open to new ideas, Dr Martin continues to value the contributions students from other countries make to the programs she teaches on: "In my Internet Policy course, students from India and China help raise awareness about how issues such as the digital divide are having a particular impact in their countries. Having multiple points of view on complex issues helps everyone, including the teacher, to learn more about the subject and get more out of the program."

To that end the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences has sought to encourage more international students to come to GWU over the last few years to contribute to the teaching and research programs at the graduate level. Staff are involved in a range of large research projects, many of which offer funding to qualified international students.

Dr Martin regards this aspect of internationalization as being particularly positive: "Right now international students are being funded for research in bioinformatics, biomedical engineering, medical imaging, nanotechnology, networking, software engineering, environmental engineering, structural engineering, RFID sensors and sensor networks, and high performance computing, just to name a few. Our international make-up is really important."

As someone who has experience of both the private and public sectors, Dr Martin appreciates the importance of relating graduate programs to employment after graduation for local and international students alike. She sees the masters and PhD degrees that GWU offers as excellent pathways to a range of careers.

"Because of GWU's location in Washington, D.C., which is an engineering and high tech hub, we have many interactions with local companies in all areas of engineering and computing. Many of these companies are willing to sponsor international students for their practical training year as well as to sponsor them for H1-B visas. We also have a number of our students do their practical training or find jobs at the World Bank, which is a next door neighbor of the university."

With such a breadth of experience, Dr Martin is a popular professor amongst GWU's international master's and PhD students. Perhaps you should consider studying with her!

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Written by QS Staff Writer

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