Wednesday, December 2, 2015
A conversation with Stanford professor Eric Roberts on the past, present, and future of computer science education.
After receiving his Ph.D. in Applied Mathematics from Harvard University in 1980, Eric Roberts taught at Wellesley College from 1980-85, where he chaired the Computer Science Department. From 1985-90, he was a member of the research staff at Digital Equipment Corporation’s Systems Research Center in Palo Alto, California, where his research focused on programming tools for multiprocessor architectures. In September 1990, Roberts joined the Stanford faculty, where he is now Professor of Computer Science and a Bass University Fellow in Undergraduate Education.
From 1990 to 2002, Professor Roberts was Associate Chair and Director of Undergraduate Studies for Computer Science. In that capacity, he was the principal architect of Stanford’s introductory programming sequence. He has written six computer science textbooks that are used at many colleges and universities throughout the world. His current research focuses on computer science education, particularly for underserved communities. From 1998 to 2005, Roberts directed the Bermuda Project, which developed the computer science curriculum for Bermuda’s public secondary schools.
Professor Roberts has been active in professional organizations dedicated to computer science education. He is a Fellow of both the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). He has been a member of the ACM Education Board since 1997 and served as its chair from 2005 to 2007. From 1998 to 2001, Roberts served as co-chair and principal editor for the ACM/IEEE-CS Joint Task Force on Computing Curricula 2001, which published a detailed set of curriculum guidelines in December 2001. He also chaired the ACM Java Task Force from 2003 to 2007.
Professor Roberts has also been active in several organizations seeking to promote socially responsible use of science and technology, including Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility and Student Pugwash USA. In 2000, Roberts was the Eugene M. Lang Visiting Professor for Social Change at Swarthmore College.
While at Stanford, Professor Roberts has received several university-level teaching awards, including the Bing Fellowship, established “to recognize excellence in teaching and a committed interest to the teaching of undergraduates”; the Dinkelspiel Award, which recognizes “distinctive and exceptional contributions to undergraduate education”; and the Laurance and Naomi Carpenter Hoagland Prize, awarded for excellence in undergraduate teaching. In January 2002, Roberts was named one of the first eight University Fellows in Undergraduate Education, which are designed “to reward faculty who make truly outstanding contributions to Stanford’s undergraduate experience.”
In 2003, Roberts received the annual Award for Outstanding Contribution to Computer Science Education from the ACM’s Special Interest Group in Computer Science Education (SIGCSE). In 2012, Roberts received both the Karl V. Karlstrom Outstanding Educator Award from the ACM and the Taylor Booth Education Award from the Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineers Computer Society (IEEE-CS).