The 2022 SIGACT Distinguished Service Award is presented to Rajiv Gandhi for outstanding contributions to mentoring and teaching a large number of high-school and undergraduate students from many different, often non-traditional backgrounds—empowering them to achieve substantially in theoretical computer science and to take an appreciation for theoretical computer science into their other computing endeavors.
Gandhi established the Program in Algorithmic and Combinatorial Thinking for high school students in 2010. Since 2011, the program has taken place at Princeton University and has been attracting students from all over the U.S. and beyond. The program has grown from a handful of students to nearly 200 students each year, and has inspired many of them to go on to undergraduate and graduate study in the theory of computing or other careers in computing. Gandhi has also worked closely with and mentored students in India at schools whose students have not typically gone on to graduate study. A number of these students have since gone on to strong Computer Science PhD programs in the U.S., with some of them continuing on to Computer Science faculty positions and research lab positions.
Gandhi takes a special interest in working one-on-one with undergraduates at Rutgers University-Camden (RU-C), his home institution. Until 2009 almost no computer science student at RU-C went to graduate school. Since 2009, many RU-C students mentored by Gandhi have gone to strong PhD programs in Computer Science, have received awards such as the Computing Research Association's Outstanding Undergraduate Research Award and NSF Graduate Research Fellowships, and have gone on to positions including Computer Science postdoctoral and faculty positions. Notably, many of these students came from non-traditional and disadvantaged backgrounds and had not already been recognized as academic stars. Gandhi has spent an incredible amount of time understanding each student, inspiring them to pursue academics seriously, working closely with them on research, and mentoring them.
Through an outstanding level of dedication, Gandhi spreads the joy of algorithmic and mathematical thinking. He has had a dramatic effect on many lives.