Ph.D. Student Wins Facebook Fellowship

Computer Science Ph.D. candidate Jeremy Andrus has been named a Facebook Fellow. Andrus, right, is one of only 12 fellows tapped nationwide from a field of more than 300 applicants.
Ph.D. Student and Prof. Nieh Win Best Paper Award

Computer Science Ph.D. candidate Jeremy Andrus has co-authored a paper with associate Professor Jason Nieh that won the Best Paper Award at the Association for Computing Machinery’s Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education.

The paper – Teaching Operating Systems Using Android (PDF) – was selected from a pool of 289 papers submitted to the conference, which provides a forum for sharing new ideas for courses, laboratories, and other elements of teaching and pedagogy, at all levels of instruction.

Andrus says the paper describes their experience in the fall of 2010 teaching – and working as a teaching assistant in – the Columbia University operating systems course (COMS W4118).

“We designed homework assignments to integrate hands-on Android experience to reinforce students' understanding of operating system concepts,” Andrus says. “This exposed students to a real-world development environment on a mobile phone and gave them a chance to apply concepts from the lectures to smart phones, which are becoming the most widely-used computing platform.”

Results from student evaluations of the course indicated it helped them learn about real-world operating systems, Andrus says.

“This paper builds on a foundation of many years of innovations in teaching operating systems developed here at Columbia,” he says. “We used pre-configured virtual machines (virtual appliances) to deliver all the software tools students needed.”

Distance learning students also participated in the course, Andrus says, as they were provided with a mobile phone simulator (software that acts like a mobile phone) that runs the complete Android environment.

“We plan to continue our innovative pedagogical use of technology trends that make learning operating systems more fun and engaging for students.”

This exciting news for Andrus comes on the heels of winning a best paper prize (see story at right) with his advisor, Jason Nieh, associate professor of computer science at Columbia Engineering. As a Facebook Fellow, Andrus will receive a $30,000 stipend to cover study expenses, $5,000 for conference travel, and $2,500 for a personal computer.
In addition, the Facebook Fellowship comes with an invitation to visit Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif., later this year to meet one-on-one with engineers working on problems relevant to his research.
“It's an honor to be chosen, and I would hope the recognition can fuel more productive collaboration,” he says.
Andrus is developing an app that would allow two separate personas – say, one for work and one for home – on a single smartphone.
“I would like to refine and unify the mobile computing experience using a system-level approach,” he says. “Of course, I'm also interested in fun, exciting, and relevant research.”
In its announcement, Facebook posted the following description of Andrus and his research:
“When Jeremy sees many people carrying multiple smartphones, he also sees a challenge: How can we unify all those phones and their functionalities so we need to carry only one device? His goal is to revolutionize the mobile market with virtualization solutions that will allow us to use multiple virtual devices on a single physical device.
Jeremy will work to unify the mobile user experience by investigating efficient and secure ways to virtualize whole platforms like Android. His work will help facilitate the next generation of mobile virtual appliances, open up new opportunities for mobile cloud-based applications and services, and clear our cluttered pockets of excess devices.”
Andrus anticipates leaving academia after completing his Ph.D. and hopes to return to industry to work at a startup or an established organization. “I really enjoy creating new technologies that people can use,” he says.
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