Hajiaghayi Honored by ACM with 2017 ICPC Coach Award

Thu Apr 06, 2017

The Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) will honor a faculty member in the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies (UMIACS) this May for his outstanding record of coaching students in a global programming competition.

Mohammad T. Hajiaghayi, the Jack and Rita G. Minker Professor of Computer Science, will receive ACM’s International Collegiate Programming Contest (ICPC) Coach Award for advancing University of Maryland student teams five times to ICPC world finals.

The competition—in existence for nearly 40 years and sponsored by global technology and consulting giant IBM—pits teams of university students against each other to solve complex, real-world programming problems.

ICPC challenges competitors to race against the clock in a battle of logic, strategy and mental endurance.

“I feel lucky to be able to work with the best and brightest undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Maryland—it is wonderful and a lot of fun to be able to help them reach their full potential,” says Hajiaghayi. “Winning this award is very validating and really gives me the energy to continue pushing these teams so we can advance to world finals and give our best performance there.”

In the past 12 months, Hajiaghayi and Shangfu Peng, a fifth-year doctoral student in computer science, have coached three teams of UMD students, including one that will compete against 131 other teams at this year’s world finals.

That team—computer science doctoral students Mahsa Derakhshan, John Tan and Hadi Yami—placed third in the Mid-Atlantic ACM ICPC last November.

“He is really deserving of this award because of how hard he works to get us ready for these competitions,” says Derakhshan. “He really inspires all of us to give it our all when we are out there competing.”

Hajiaghayi will be presented with the award at the ICPC world finals opening ceremony on May 22 in Rapid City, South Dakota.

—Story by Melissa Brachfeld