Caverlee named Montague Scholar

Photo of Dr. James CaverleeDr. James Caverlee, assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, has been named a Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE) 2011-2012 Montague-CTE Scholar.

The Montague-CTE Scholar program, named after its founding donor, Kenneth Montague '37, honors early-career excellence in undergraduate teaching at Texas A&M. Each year, the program recognizes one tenure-track assistant professor from each college who has demonstrated a commitment to excellence in undergraduate teaching. Montague-CTE Scholar awardees receive a $6,500 grant to encourage further development in his/her undergraduate teaching excellence. This year's awardees will be honored at a luncheon on Nov. 10 in the Koldus Building in Rooms 110 and 111.

Caverlee's award is a result of an undergraduate teaching philosophy that is broad but has recently focused on introducing students to massive data management and entrepreneurship.

"Computer science naturally links theory to practice. Algorithmic advances in our discipline have directly spawned high-impact companies like Google and accelerated the growth of companies like Amazon and Facebook," Caverlee said. "The ability to make sense out of massive amounts of data, as well as the drive to create something new has helped these companies tremendously."

In order to prepare his students to be technical and innovative leaders in large scale data management, he proposes to bring personalized cloud computing to his undergraduate classroom.

"Cloud computing provides access to a scale of computing not possible in a traditional lab setting," he said. "Instead of data mining over smallish data that can fit on a single machine, my goal is for students to learn how to harness these massive computational resources for large-scale knowledge discovery. Students will learn how to setup and deploy cloud-based data analytics through Amazon Web Services, write MapReduce code for distributed data analysis, and build new mobile and social applications that utilize the cloud."

Caverlee said he also continues to build on his efforts to encourage entrepreneurship among computer science and engineering undergraduates.

"I'm excited about the opportunity of sparking a 'startup culture' among our undergrads. I hope to encourage students to approach classroom projects and traditional learning modules as an opportunity for continued growth and turn them into practical, real-world applications that can have big impact."

To encourage this aim, Caverlee said he plans to use a portion of his Montague Scholar Award to invite local entrepreneurs and world-renowned experts to College Station to lead invited lectures, to coordinate "hackathons" (a hackathon is a loosely-organized programming environment that encourages creativity and collaboration), and meet with undergraduates in small group settings.

Caverlee joins Dr. Nancy Amato, Dr. John Keyser and Dr. Jeffrey Trinkle (now at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute) as Montague-CTE Scholars from the Department of Computer Science and Engineering.

"This is a tremendous honor," he said. "I am truly humbled. I'm especially thankful to the Montague family for this opportunity to enhance our undergraduate curriculum."

For more information about the Center for Teaching Excellence Montague-CTE Scholar program, including a list of this year's scholars, visit or call (979) 845-8392.