Faculty Profile: Dr. Stella Atkins, Computing Science

October 28, 2011

We're delighted to profile the winners of the inaugural Dean's Awards for Excellence in Graduate Studies. Dr. Stella Atkins received a 2011 award for Excellence in Graduate Supervision.

The 2012 awards are now open for nominations. Nomination deadline is November 15.

When Stella Atkins taught her first graduate course, over half of the students asked her to be their supervisor. This trend continued throughout her teaching and mentoring career at the university. She has built close relationships to her students and built paths for them to enter successful careers after graduation, both in industry and in the academy.

Her students speak movingly and with great affection for her, saying, “She is an exceptional supervisor who inspires students to look beyond disciplinary boundaries and to think outside of the box. She treats graduate students as her partners in research, and at the same time she gently guides them. She helps students to prepare papers for the conferences; she reviews their publications, and works with them to find financial support to travel to conferences.”

Her colleagues share the same high opinion: “Stella’s research group is closely-knit; aside from technical advice, Stella cares enough to provide them with a rich social atmosphere. In addition to looking after her own students very well, Stella tries to help other students whose paths cross hers. She is an excellent supervisor and mentor to all near her.”

In her 24 years of supervising graduate students at SFU, Stella Atkins has only had one student drop out of his program. That’s pretty good for most supervisors but stellar in Computing Science, where students had multiple job offers on a regular basis throughout the dot-com years. (The student went on to put the first music on the web and was featured in Maclean’s and Time magazines; she notes that he probably doesn’t regret his decision.)

Her history of strong mentorship, interdisciplinary research and graduate student inspiration has made her one of the inaugural recipients of the Dean of Graduate Studies Service Award for Excellence in Graduate Supervision.

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