Photograph credit - Jeff Wilson

Photograph credit: Jeff Wilson. Photo source: the Alcalde 

UT Computer Science Isil Dillig has been named one of the Texas 10 award winners for 2023 by the Alcalde. The Texas 10 award is an annual recognition given to ten outstanding UT Austin faculty members who have made significant contributions to their respective fields.

Dillig's selection for the Texas 10 award is a well-deserved recognition of her contributions to the field of computer science and her dedication to teaching and mentoring.

“Basically, my job is raising a new generation of researchers and getting them to think through what makes for an interesting research problem,” Dillig says.

“Computer science isn’t all about programming, It’s about thinking. I hope my students walk away with the ability to think independently and develop problem-solving skills. It’s not just memorizing stuff, but really the ability to think through things and approach problems in new and innovative ways. I think that’s really important,” she says.

That’s a big part of what she teaches in her discrete mathematics course for honors computer science students. The class has a reputation for being hard, she says, but the students enjoy it anyway because she makes it as interactive as possible. Instead of just lecturing or solving math problems herself, she calls for volunteers to work through problems on their own in front of the class.

“As they’re putting the solution on the board, I’ll explain what’s going on. Or if there’s an issue, I’ll get the class to engage: ‘What do you guys think? What’s going on here? What are your comments?’ And I try to make it interactive and engaging so they’re not passively learning,” Dillig says.

Most professors at UT are dedicated to helping their students find jobs after graduation. Dillig has taken that to the next level—she’s hiring them.

In addition to her teaching and research, she recently cofounded Verdise Inc., a company that provides security solutions for blockchain services.

“The idea behind this research area is to develop techniques to automatically improve program correctness and automatically find bugs and security vulnerabilities and programs,” Dillig says.

“I recently got interested in blockchain. So, I was approached by investors who saw my research. One of my former students and one of my current students who were working on this [with me], we decided to join forces.”

Excerpt from the Alcalde's Introducing the 2023 Texas 10 article. Read the full article to see the full list of this year's Texas 10.

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