The Annual Award Ceremony at KFSCIS recognized ten outstanding staff, faculty, and students this year in a gala event at Florida International University’s College of Business Complex. Dr. Gregory Murad Reis kicked off the gala, using the magic of AI in a virtual reality introduction to the audience. Professor Jason Liu, KFSCIS Director, and Eminent Scholar Chaired Professor, provided an overview of the School’s past year’s successes before introducing the Interim Dean of the College of Engineering and Computing, Dr. Ines Triay, to provide welcoming remarks.
The event recognized the best of the best at the Knight Foundation School of Computing and Information Sciences, with awards given to the best overall student, best of the best staff awards, teaching excellence awards, faculty research awards, and faculty service awards, as well as an overall outstanding faculty award.
The winner of the Overall Best Student Award went to Sheila Alamany for her significant recognition and exceptional work in adversarial machine learning, a convergence of machine learning and cybersecurity. Her groundbreaking contributions have been acknowledged in top conferences, including the Best Paper Awards at CQR 2020 and Safe AI 2022. Sheila has received prestigious fellowships, such as the GEM Consortium Fellowship and the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, highlighting her research excellence. Sheila is a role model for Hispanic female computer scientists and maintained a perfect 4.0 GPA in the Ph.D. program. She graduates this December and will pursue her work at MIT Lincoln Laboratory as an artificial intelligence research scientist in the AI technology and systems group.
Three KFSCIS staff members were selected as the “best of the best” to receive this year’s staff awards. Ms. Bernadette Chung, the Assistant Director for Academic Support Services was recognized for her excellence in service and support. Bernadette expertly manages course schedules, classroom requests, and space coordination while ensuring students’ needs are met. She displays meticulous attention to class enrollments. Her commitment extends to onboarding new faculty, managing academic integrity processes, and serving as a liaison for dual enrollment courses. Bernadette supervises staff, coordinates with FIU Online, and handles various administrative responsibilities. Her unwavering commitment and willingness to assist beyond her defined role make her the epitome of excellence, setting her apart as the best in her field.
Dr. Scott Graham, FIU’s KFSCIS Assistant Director of Research and Managing Co-Director of I/UCRC CAKE, was lauded for exceptional contributions to externally funded research. His precision and attention to detail in creating administrative documents and complex budgets go beyond the norm, resulting in perfect proposals and securing tens of millions of dollars in project awards. Dr. Graham’s expertise, speed, and organization make him invaluable in assisting faculty with proposal preparation, deadlines, and project budgets. Despite high pressures, he maintains a positive and collaborative attitude and is always available to lend support.
The final staff award went to Ms. Ariana Taglioretti, KFSCIS Office Manager. Ms. Taglioretti was lauded as exemplifying extraordinary service excellence and dedication. Despite her extensive workload, she showcases exceptional organizational skills and effective communication. Beyond her routine tasks, she played a pivotal role in faculty hiring interviews and HR processes, adapting swiftly to challenges and exhibiting continuous career growth. Ariana’s commitment to excellence, attention to detail, and ability to thrive under pressure made her a standout candidate for recognition. Her round-the-clock availability, support, and empathetic connection with colleagues have made her the heart and soul of the KFSCIS family, earning her the title of the best of the best.
The KFSCIS Award for Excellence in Teaching went to Ms. Jill Weiss, a teaching professor and outstanding educator, who excels among teaching faculty with our highest Student Perception of Teaching scores (SPOTS), by delivering instruction that profoundly resonates with students. Notably adept at handling large classes, Jill impacted over 1800 students through online courses last year. Her commitment to teaching excellence goes beyond numbers, fostering genuine connections with her students for a memorable and enriching learning experience. Jill transcends traditional boundaries, creating a dynamic and inclusive educational environment, and showcasing a dedication to excellence that sets her apart.
Dr. Antonio Hernandez, Associate Teaching Professor was also recognized with the Faculty Award in Teaching. Dr. Hernandez was noted for his commitment to teaching excellence and consistently high SPOTS scores, and by making a lasting impact on his students. Beyond the classroom, he played a pivotal role as the chair of the non-tenure-track hiring committee, diligently selecting top teaching professors to uphold KFSCIS’s commitment to academic excellence. His exceptional teaching abilities and leadership in faculty selection showcase a commitment to fostering an educational experience that transcends the ordinary.
The Faculty Award in Research Excellence went to Professor Christian Poellabauer. A dedicated researcher, Dr. Poellabauer contributed significantly to the academic community through groundbreaking work in Mobile Sensing and Analytics, particularly in healthcare. His commitment to excellence and innovation is evident in the development of novel sensing solutions. With 2 journal papers, 2 conference papers, and 1 book chapter in the past year, along with receipt of new grants, his research has gained widespread recognition. Beyond the lab, he is the Graduate Program Director, where he fosters a culture of inquiry and intellectual curiosity, impacting both students and colleagues.
The Faculty Award recognizing faculty with an extraordinary record of service to the academic, professional, and local community went to Dr. Masoud Sadjadi. An associate professor, Dr. Sadjadi earned recognition for his outstanding contributions to student education and service as the director of the student design course, demonstrating a longstanding passion for professional excellence. He was also recognized for his service roles on committees and community partnership projects, which significantly enhanced the academic environment, contributing to various initiatives for both students and faculty.
An additional Faculty Award for Service Excellence went to Maria Cristina “Cristy” Charters, an associate teaching professor at the School. Ms. Charters was lauded for her service beyond the classroom to student organizations, including Women in Computer Science, Grace Hopper Celebration, and CodeFest, where she inspires women to seek computer science careers. Dedicated to diversity and inclusion, she contributed significantly to FIU’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee. Her exceptional dedication to academic and professional service makes her a role model for excellence for our students.
Overall Faculty Award for Excellence went to Distinguished University Professor, S. S. “Ram” Iyengar. This past year Dr. Iyengar received many prestigious honors from the international community for his scientific work, including an Honorary Doctor of Science degree from Poznan University of Technology, a Lifetime Achievement Award in digital forensics at the 90th INTERPOL General Assembly, and the Karnataka Rajyotsava Award. He is a prolific researcher with more than 600 research publications, an h-index of 63 and over 21,400 citations. This past year alone, he published 4 highly acclaimed papers and 1 book.