Sorin Lerner, a tireless supporter of the Computer Science and Engineering Department, has been honored by the Jacobs School of Engineering as CSE Teacher of the year.
Lerner, who is the department’s Vice Chair for Graduate Affairs, teaches a number of undergraduate and graduate courses and makes it his goal to empower every student as much as possible.
“I want to instill a growth mindset that students can do it, especially when they're dealing with material that's very confusing and is new to them,” said Lerner. “I also try to instill that everyone is learning all the time. I’m learning, too.”
Helping students grasp difficult concepts, and in some cases completely new approaches, is a fun challenge for Lerner. He notes that functional programming introduces an entirely different way of thinking for many people. Students who have spent years working with loops (repeated instructions) must now embrace recursions (solving complex problems by using smaller steps). Rather than making new structures, they are creating new things from old ones.
“It's just such a different mindset and a different way of thinking about things that challenges them in a good way,” said Lerner. “They have to rethink a lot of what they've been doing for a long time. It’s really fun to go through that process with them.”
Lerner joined CSE in 2006. Prior to that, he studied computer engineering at McGill University and earned his PhD at the University of Washington. His broad teaching experience helps him anticipate areas that might be difficult to understand.
“You learn the common things that people get tripped over,” said Lerner. “You can work with the students proactively to clarify misconceptions and reinforce points that may be confusing.”
Beyond his teaching duties, Lerner does research on Programming Languages and Compilers, including techniques to make software more secure. He also plays an important role organizing the CSE Research Open House and Celebration of Diversity, among other events.
Lerner is honored to be selected Teacher of the Year, but he notes that his classroom approaches aren’t any different from his colleagues, who inspire his work.
“What's really special about CSE is that we have a community of folks who are dedicated to excellence, are supportive and who do really awesome stuff,” said Lerner. “There's a level of energy that's really exciting.”
Congratulations, Professor Lerner.