Outstanding Student Initiative prize for Tom Kuipers
Tom Kuipers receiving his Outstanding Initiative prize.
The department of Computer Science has recognised the outstanding contribution of one of our students, Tom Kuipers. Tom is currently in his third year (going into his fourth as part of our MSci programme). In a hybrid presentation — some attendees were physically present, socially distanced, in the department, while others joined online — Dr Carlos Matos, Head of Department, presented Tom with the "Computer Science Prize for Outstanding Initiative in Academic Service".
This academic year that is finishing — and, indeed, the end of the preceding one — has seen many changes caused by the coronavirus pandemic. One clear example is how we run our labs. Usually we have teaching assistants (TAs) moving around our newly-appointed labs in the Bedford Building, helping students face-to-face (or in pair programming terms, elbow-to-elbow). Of course, with the first lockdown this all changed and we had to switch to running things 100% online.
Tom designed a session-sharing solution on our Unix server, which was developed over the summer. Working with Adrian Thomas of CIM (the team who run the IT in our labs), Tom devised and implemented the "Remote Assistant" mechanism that we've been using ever since. Most students are probably unaware that the solution they are using was put in place by one of their own number.
It's obvious that to do such a thing requires a strong technical understanding of both the capabilities and limitations of our systems (and pragmatic security considerations too). But it also needs the initiative to actually dive in and tackle the problem in the first place.
Tom's excellent contribution to the department is not limited to this one example. He's been a proactive participant in our outreach activities, helping with Open Days both on- and off-line. He's one of our star team of TAs, and contributed new material to Royal Holloway's Foundation Year programming course. He was also a participant in the Computer Science UROP scheme (working under Dr Argyrios Deligkas), in which undergraduate students work with the department's researchers during the summer.
At the presentation, members of staff spoke glowingly of the ways they had been helped by this extraordinary student — noting not only his technical ability but also his sensitivity to the different needs of the students he helps. As Carlos said at the presentation, "I want to thank Tom for his help; I know he doesn't do this for any reason other than actually being motivated to help, and to make sure things run well for his colleagues, and staff as well."