The A. Nico Habermann Educational Service Award
School of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University
Pittsburgh PA 15213-3891
(412)268-8525 . (412)268-5576 (fax)


Thomas C. Abraham
2013 Awardee

Thank you for this honor. I'm humbled and grateful to be receiving this award. You have all helped define who I am today–friends, the Autolab team, the Carnegie Mellon community, especially Professor O'Hallaron, and, of course, my parents and little sister, who flew half way across the world to be here with me today.

If I were to go back in time and meet my freshman self at a party...we probably wouldn't be friends. I've learned a few things since freshman year. (Don't worry, mom–it was more than just a few...) I'd like to tell you about three of them:

Instead of teaching assistants spending hours grading homework assignments, why not just get a computer to do it instantly? That way, they get to spend quality time with their students, holding more office hours, or just getting some of know, sleep thing. The power of Professor O'Hallaron's idea for Autolab lies in its simplicity. I read somewhere, "Human nature is to admire complexity but reward simplicity." These past four years, I've learned to admire simplicity.

It's not every day that a college student is entrusted with positively impacting the lives of 3500 people on a daily basis *by* doing what he loves. Yet the autonomy that the Autolab team enjoys blows my mind. It reminds me that we humans are autonomous beings. Our lives are too short to worry about other people's opinions, be trapped by dogma, or to be politically correct. On behalf of the team, I'd like to thank Professor O'Hallaron for the autonomy he trusted us with. These past fours years, I've learned to champion autonomy.

Most computer scientists, we're control freaks. We build these complex virtual worlds (programs), sometimes methodically, other times not as much. But they're completely defined by us. Every line of code, every abstraction, every pixel on screen, we give them purpose. Surely, you've wondered what your purpose is in life. Here's what I've learned: it's to be happy. "It is not how much we have, but how much we enjoy, that makes happiness." These past four years, I've learned to be happy.

Thank you for a great four years.

18 May 2013

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