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Thursday, April 17, 2014

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Three Princeton professors to receive Phi Beta Kappa teaching awards

The Princeton University chapter of Phi Beta Kappa will give its annual awards for excellence in undergraduate teaching to John Burgess, the John N. Woodhull Professor of Philosophy; Robert Sedgewick, the William O. Baker *39 Professor in Computer Science; and Kevin Wayne, the Phillip Y. Goldman '86 Senior Lecturer in Computer Science.

The awards will be presented at the Phi Beta Kappa induction ceremony, which will be held at 8:45 a.m. Monday, June 3, in Richardson Auditorium, Alexander Hall, prior to the graduating seniors' Class Day ceremony.

Princeton students elected to the academic honor society have selected recipients of the teaching prize annually since 2004. The students define the criteria for excellence in teaching as skill in instruction, commitment to working with and building relationships with undergraduates, and ability to spark students' intellectual interests. Each winner is presented with a plaque.

Burgess has taught at Princeton since 1975 and has been the undergraduate departmental representative for philosophy for 25 years.

He teaches several courses in logic and advises undergraduate independent work in philosophy and mathematics. Burgess is co-author of the definitive textbook "Computability and Logic" and author of "Philosophical Logic."

Through his books and teaching, Burgess aims to give students a greater appreciation for rigorous, formal thinking by explaining concepts in clear and concise ways.

Senior Jake Nebel wrote in his commendation: "Professor Burgess is one of the most caring and effective teachers I've ever had." Nebel added that Burgess' classes are enlivened by his "clear communication of dense material … his hilarious comments, historical gems, mathematical myths, personal stories and Jane Austen analogies."

Burgess graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Princeton in 1969 and earned his Ph.D. at the University of California-Berkeley. He has served as president of the Phi Beta Kappa chapter of New Jersey and chair of the University's Judicial Committee.

Sedgewick and Wayne will be recognized for their co-teaching in computer science. The two lead courses on algorithms and introductory computer science, and have co-authored textbooks on the subjects.

"Computer science is the field of the future, and their positive influence to the scientists and professionals of tomorrow is undeniable," seniors Max Rabinovich and Ilias Giechaskiel wrote in their commendation.

The students added, "Their hard work has paved the way for countless students to go from not knowing the first thing about computer science to being able to apply it and even making it the centerpiece of fulfilling professional lives — an achievement that embodies some of the highest ideals of education."

This past academic year, Sedgewick and Wayne also taught their classes online to a total of 250,000 students around the world as part of the University's participation in the educational website Coursera.

Sedgewick served as founding chair of the Department of Computer Science from 1985 to 1994, and became an Association for Computing Machinery fellow in 1997 for his seminal work in the mathematical analysis of algorithms and pioneering research in algorithm animation. He received his Ph.D. from Stanford University.

Wayne has taught at Princeton since 1998. He has been recognized with the School of Engineering and Applied Science's Distinguished Teacher Award and the Engineering Council's Excellence in Teaching Award. He received his Ph.D. from Cornell University.

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