Kumar awarded Pratt Faculty Outstanding Teaching Award
Daniel Dexter, ECE ILLINOIS
- Kumar was honored to have received the award that recognizes faculty members for their commitment to furthering the education of ECE students.
- ECE ILLINOIS collects letters of recommendation from other ECE professors and colleagues, as well as from former students who have since moved on to graduate work or careers in industry.
- Kumar specializes in low power computer architecture, which focuses on reducing the power needed for machines to function.
Professor Rakesh Kumar has been named the recipient of the ECE Ronald W. Pratt Faculty Outstanding Teaching Award.
“An engineer is somebody who can solve a problem they have not seen before,” Kumar said. “So I really try to focus on not only ensuring that they learn, but also on that they learn how to learn. I try to identify what is ‘need-to-know’ and what’s ‘good-to-know.’ I focus on the ‘need-to-know,’ which is really the material that will help them learn by themselves.”
Kumar was nominated for the Pratt award by students in his class. ECE ILLINOIS then collects letters of recommendation from other ECE professors and colleagues, as well as from former students who have since moved on to graduate work or careers in industry. The selection committee also considered Kumar’s ICES forms students completed at semester’s end.
Kumar specializes in low power computer architecture, which focuses on reducing the power needed for machines to function. Most recently, he has been working on ultralow power processors and decreasing the energy of supercomputers and data centers.
He’s primarily involved in ECE 385, Digital Systems Laboratory and ECE 411, Computer Organization. Throughout the years, both of these classes have undergone improvements, which have modernized the courses as a response to feedback he has received from students.
“Our goal is to teach these engineers that they can succeed no matter what the state-of-art is,” Kumar said. “It’s exciting because it’s a dynamic field, but it’s also challenging because you have to really think hard about the core set of skills they’ll need to succeed as an engineer. At the same time, we try to incorporate topical courses so these students are sought after by universities and companies.”
Kumar appreciates how good teaching also enables retention. He has found many of his former students gain an interest in pursuing graduate study, and look to him for opportunities to join his research group. Currently, Kumar has two former Illinois undergraduates working in his research group as graduate students.
Within the department, he has found an environment of support that has contributed to his research and development as a teacher. He has found students and faculty to be an inspiration to continue his pursuit of being an exceptional professor.
“The faculty in the department are always very willing to be there in terms of constant advice, support, and encouragement,” Kumar said. “The department also has this culture of emphasizing teaching as much as research. It’s a wonderful environment to be in where you can both learn how to be a good teacher and be valued.”