Brown Professor To Receive IEEE Undergraduate Teaching Award


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R. Iris Bahar, Brown Professor Emerita of Engineering, Professor Emerita of Computer Science, and Adjunct Professor of Engineering, has been selected to receive the 2024 Undergraduate Teaching Award from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).

IEEE, the world’s largest engineering professional organization, is recognizing Bahar for “innovative undergraduate teaching and transformative student mentoring that champions inclusivity in engineering and examines societal impacts of technology.” The IEEE Undergraduate Teaching Award was established in 1990 to honor top teachers in electrical and electronics engineering and related disciplines. Bahar will receive a bronze medal, a certificate and an honorarium.

Throughout her career, Professor Bahar has been passionate about addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion issues in many aspects of her work, and much of her efforts in undergraduate curriculum develop­ment have been aimed at broadening participation and inclusion in the classroom. She is a strong believer in the value of interdisciplinary course content and hands-on creativity to meet diverse interests and to appeal more broadly to undergraduate students from multiple backgrounds. In addition, she believes such courses are more likely to reflect real-life conditions and facilitate communal learning among diverse viewpoints, promoting a sense of shared purpose, and yielding more comprehensive solutions for society.

First launched in 2017, “Design of Robotic Systems” (ENGN1931i) became the novel course that Bahar built from scratch, emerging as the culmination of her extended examination into related issues of diversity, equity and inclusion in undergraduate engineering curricula. This was the first interdisciplinary project-based robotics course in Brown Engineering’s curriculum.   

She continued to tweak course content over the next four years and further broadened the mix of students to include computer science concentrators as well as industrial design students from the Rhode Island School of Design.  Then, in fall 2021 she received funding from the Brown Arts Initiative, Engineering, and Computer Science departments to co-teach a new course with professional artist Eva Goetz. Goetz generously donated five of her existing large-scale robot sculptures to campus and “The Robots are Coming! The Robots are Coming!” (ENGN1931U/CSCI1951Y) was launched.  ENGN1931U harnessed the power of multidisciplinary study and complementary collaboration with varied student teams augmenting existing artistic robots with new mechanical, electrical and software features, and then designed entirely new dynamic interactive creations. In this process, students developed hands-on, integrated understanding of fundamental concepts and of connections among engineering, computing, design, and visual art.  Concurrently, students explored issues of spirit, self, technology, language, ethics and sustainability as starting points for design.

Bahar, who moved from Brown in January 2022 to become Department Head and Professor of Computer Science at the Colorado School of Mines, has been extensively involved with undergraduate students outside the classroom as well, through activities such as 1:1 advising, independent project supervision, and other undergraduate mentoring relationships formed in her earliest days at Brown.

She received her B.S. and M.S. degrees in computer engineering from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and her Ph.D. degree in electrical and computer engineering from the University of Colorado, Boulder. Before entering the Ph.D. program at CU-Boulder, she worked at Digital Equipment Corporation as a senior hardware designer, responsible for parts of the circuit and microarchitectural implementation in their microprocessor chips. She joined the Brown faculty in 1996 and is a Fellow of the IEEE and a Distinguished Scientist of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM).

Her research interests focus on energy-efficient and reliable computing, from the system level to device level.  She is the 2019 recipient of the Marie R. Pistilli Women in Engineering Achievement Award,  an annual honor that recognizes individuals who have significantly helped to advance women in electronic design, and the Brown University School of Engineering Award for Excellence in Teaching in Engineering. She is also the 2022 recipient of the University of Illinois ECE Distinguished Alumni Award. 

Bahar becomes the second Brown professor in three years to be honored with this award. Professor Chris Rose received the IEEE Undergraduate Teaching Award in 2022.