Growing up in the Silicon Valley, Brittany Nicholls has always been around computers, but it is her computing research that recently earned the junior an honorable mention in the Computing Research Association’s national awards. While Nicholls remembers playing computer games at age 4 and beginning to use a computer in fourth grade, her high school in San Jose didn’t offer computer science and she really didn’t get serious about studying computer science until her freshman year at McDaniel.
“Now I don’t touch a computer except to write papers,” Nicholls, who is majoring in both Mathematics and Computer Science, says, explaining that the theoretical computing research doesn’t involve actually using a computer. Her mentor, Associate Professor of Computer Science Pavel Naumov, quips that “the grad student’s definition of a theoretical computer scientist is someone who uses the computer only to check e-mail and write papers.” Instead, professor and student are exploring the abstract concepts of computer science – and their research efforts have now earned a national award.
A letter from the C.R.A. says “this year's nominees were a very impressive group. … several were authors or coauthors on multiple papers, others had made presentations at major conferences, and some had produced software artifacts that were in widespread use. Many of our nominees had been involved in successful summer research or internship programs, many had been teaching assistants, tutors, or mentors, and a number had significant involvement in community volunteer efforts.
“It is quite an honor to be selected for Honorable Mention from this group.”...