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Professor wins Supervisory Excellence Award

Posted on 05/08/2016
Maribel Fernandez, Professor of Computer Science in the Department of Informatics, has been awarded the King’s Supervisory Excellence Award for the Faculty of Natural & Mathematical Sciences. The Supervisory Excellence Awards are designed to recognise and reward supervisors for the outstanding supervision and support that they offer to doctoral students at King’s College London. Nominations for the awards are invited from postgraduate research students (including recent graduates), Heads of Departments/Divisions, Heads of Graduate Studies and Deans of Faculties.

PhD student Ene Nneke nominated Professor Fernandez for the award, referencing her “attention to even the smallest details during my PhD progress meetings with her and the provision of insightful guidance that indicate her years of experience”, adding that “as my supervisor she ensures that I maintain involvement in activities that will broaden and aid develop me as a researcher.”

Ene’s experience is reflected in Professor Fernandez’s response to the question ‘What do you consider to be best practice in supervision and how do your own practices reflect this?’. Professor Fernandez responds:

“I consider PhD students as future colleagues, and try to involve them in all the aspects of research, starting from the specification of the research problem and its methodological and technical issues, and including writing papers and project proposals, organising seminars and research meetings, reviewing research papers, etc. I work with them in these tasks first, before asking them to take charge of a task. For instance, we review papers together before I ask them to review a paper in the area of their thesis. When they do take charge of a task by themselves, I let them know I am available in case they need to discuss, and I always try to give constructive feedback on their work.

I also try to introduce my PhD students to the research community: I encourage them to participate in research meetings in the UK and abroad, and I introduce them to other researchers in the area. I also encourage more advanced PhD students to present their work in our group seminars and to visit other groups to present their work.

I believe it is important to give PhD students the opportunity to develop all the aspects of the work, including combining research activities with teaching. I encourage and support PhD students who want to combine their research work with teaching in the Department, or with administrative activities such as organising seminars. On the other hand, I am aware that trying to combine research and other activities requires careful planning and time management.

Being a PhD student can be stressful at times, so in addition to monitoring their technical work, I try to be aware of pastoral issues that might affect them, and try to offer support when needed.

I am a member of the ACM-W Scholarships panel (whose main goal is to encourage female students to choose a research career in Informatics, by sponsoring their participation in research conferences) and also a member of the EAPLS Best PhD Dissertation Award Panel (the EAPLS is the European Association for Programming Languages and Systems) supporting and celebrating the work of junior researchers in Computer Science.”

Dr Mohammad Shikh-Bahaei, Head of Graduate Studies for the Faculty, said of Professor Fernandez’s success“It is always difficult to select a winner for the Supervisory Excellence Awards, but Professor Fernandez shows that care for her students is of top priority in her agenda, which is why I believe Maribel is a great asset to the Department and the Faculty.  We all offer her our congratulations in this prestigious award.”

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