Purdue CS Alumna selected as one of the 2022 Distinguished Women Scholars
Professor Susan Rodger is a research and education pioneer with significant contributions bringing computer science to K-12, developing visual and interactive learning tools for undergraduate courses, and promoting the advancement of women in sciences. She has been selected as one of six 2022 Distinguished Women Scholars for her exceptional leadership and significant contributions to the field of computing.
The Office of the Provost and the Susan Bulkeley Butler Center for Leadership Excellence will honor the alumnae during an award reception at 3:30 p.m. March 29 in Purdue Memorial Union, Anniversary Drawing Room. Awards will be presented by Jay Akridge, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs and diversity.
Rodger, a Professor of the Practice in the Computer Science Department at Duke University, is an international leader in computer science education. She is an alumna of Purdue University, earning her MS and PhD in computer science in 1985 and 1989 respectively. She has made significant contributions in the areas of visual and interactive software, computing in K-12 schools, and women in computing. Her work has made major contributions to establishing computer science (CS) education research as a research area of computer science.
Leadership and scholarly contribution to algorithm visualization
Rodger started her academic faculty career at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and subsequently moved to Duke University’s Department of Computer Science.
While teaching undergraduate CS courses, she realized that many students struggled with the abstractions underlying computer science concepts. Searching for ways to teach these important concepts in a different way, Rodger started a groundbreaking research project on creating visual and interactive tools for helping undergraduates master foundational principles in computer science. At that time, very few efforts combining computer science, visual and interactive tools, animation, and educational tools existed.
This project turned into a three-decade long project that expanded its original scope and had a significant impact on the field of computing. The resulting software is used today in over 160 countries in courses in automata theory, compilers, programming languages, discrete math, and artificial intelligence. The software, (Java Formal Languages and Automata Package) JFLAP, has provided research topics for over 48 undergraduates, was supported by six NSF grants, resulted in over 15 papers authored by Rodger, and has received an impressive number of awards.
JFLAP’s impact is significant. With approximately 3 million pageviews, JFLAP has motivated other educators to make research contributions in the field of educational tools. A 2011 survey paper entitled "Fifty years of Automata Simulation: A review" states, "The effort put into developing this tool is unparalleled in the field of simulation of automata.", "it is the most sophisticated tool for simulating automata.", and "The tool is undoubtedly the most widely used tool for simulation of automata developed to date."
Computer science education
Computer Science Education is a new and still emerging field compared to education research in other disciplines in science and engineering. Rodger’s work helped define CS education in K-12 and was started at a time when most K-12 schools did not offer CS courses and there was little understanding on how to teach computing. Rodger has been a leader in integrating computing into middle schools and high schools. Starting with the Adventures in Alice Programming project in 2005, she did excite – and continues to excite - teachers and students about computer science through animation and storytelling with the programming environment Alice. Alice is a block-based educational programming language that makes it easy to create animations, build interactive narratives, or program simple games. Rodger has led professional development for middle school and high school teachers in all disciplines, bringing them to Duke for one-week to three-week workshops to learn Alice programming and to integrate computing into their discipline. Since 2005, Rodger has organized twenty-four Alice professional development workshops at Duke.
Woman in computing
When Rodger was a graduate student at Purdue, computer science nationally had over 30% women enrolled in degree programs. By 2008, this had shrunk to about 12%, with the field seeing increases after 2009. Today, despite many programs targeted at increasing diversity and broadening participation, PhD granting institutions have an average of 22% women undergraduates and only 11% are students from URM groups.
Rodger has been a leader in several projects on the attraction and retention of women in computer science and she has been actively involved in a number professional organizations promoting diversity and inclusions including; Computing Research Association - Widening Participation (CRA-WP), ACM-W, and The National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT).
Rodger has also been a leader in several projects focused on attraction and retention of women in computer science. In 2006, she led a Peer-Led Team Learning (PLTL) in CS program for increasing the representation of undergraduate women and minorities in computer science which focused on using PLTL in the introductory courses. As a result, eight universities implemented PLTL in CS as part of a collaborative NSF project.
A novel and impactful effort of Rodger’s is the creation of the Notable Women in Computing project to encourage people to write Wikipedia pages about notable women in computing. This project includes a tutorial on how to write a Wikipedia biography, a database of over 300 notable women in computing, and with others she created a deck of playing cards of 54 of these women. Over 10,000 decks have been produced for conferences and events.
Rodger is an exceptional computer scientist with significant contributions in the areas of visual and interactive software, computing in K-12 schools, and women in computing. She has been an outstanding mentor to undergraduates and highschool CS teachers. Her visionary efforts and dedication to computer science education have been recognized by numerous awards including:
- 2020 NCWIT (National Center for Women & Information Technology) Undergraduate Research Mentoring Award
- 2019 IEEE Computer Society Taylor L. Booth Education Award
- 2019 Duke University Trinity College David and Janet Vaughn Brooks Distinguished Teaching Award
- 2013 ACM Karl V. Karlstrom Outstanding Educator Award. ACM, the Association of Computing Machinery, is the world’s largest professional society in computer science.
- 2006 ACM Distinguished Educator award
- Induction into the NCSU Computer Science Alumni Hall of Fame in 2019.
About the Department of Computer Science at Purdue University
Founded in 1962, the Department of Computer Science was created to be an innovative base of knowledge in the emerging field of computing as the first degree-awarding program in the United States. The department continues to advance the computer science industry through research. US News & Reports ranks Purdue CS #20 and #18 overall in graduate and undergraduate programs respectively, ninth in both software engineering and cybersecurity, 14th in programming languages, 13th in computing systems, and 24th in artificial intelligence. Graduates of the program are able to solve complex and challenging problems in many fields. Our consistent success in an ever-changing landscape is reflected in the record undergraduate enrollment, increased faculty hiring, innovative research projects, and the creation of new academic programs. The increasing centrality of computer science in academic disciplines and society, and new research activities - centered around data science, artificial intelligence, programming languages, theoretical computer science, machine learning, and cybersecurity - are the future focus of the department. cs.purdue.edu
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