MacArthur Grant validates students’ opinions of prof


On Oct. 2, Daniel A Spielman ’92, Yale’s Henry Ford II Professor of Computer Science and Applied Mathematics, was named a MacArthur fellow. One of 23 people to receive the award this year, Spielman will get a “genius grant” of $500,000.

That’s all well and good, and we’re sure Spielman’s real smart and doing brilliant work “studying abstract questions that nonetheless affect the essential aspects of daily life in modern society—how we communicate and how we measure, predict, and regulate our environment and our behavior” (as the MacArthur Foundation described it in its press release), but before we give this guy our unrestrained approval, we thought we’d follow the procedure we use to judge every other professor and take a peek at his evaluations on OCI. Here are some excerpts:

  • Spielman is an amazing teacher, very clear and excited.
  • Dan really knows what he is doing with this class. You will learn a wide variety of standard algorithms.
  • Spielman definitely knows his stuff and is a pretty engaging lecturer.
  • This was my favorite class I’ve ever taken. Take it just for Spielman. He is so so smart and cares so much about the class. Problem sets and exams are all pretty fair.
  • Professor Spielman is a great professor. He is always energetic and in general explains things very clearly. It takes some stamina to last through a whole hour and fifteen minutes of proofs, but other than that, lectures were good.
  • if you put in the effort to pay attention you will learn a lot. also, spielman is awesome.


So this all looks great. Who wouldn’t want to glean shreds of knowledge from this guy? Well, according to the “Career Evaluation Summary” function on the Yale Bluebook website, although 41% of the students in Spielman’s classes have ranked him a “Very good” teacher, the workload in classes has been deemed 50% greater and 12% much greater than other Yale courses students have taken. So basically, if you are just looking to interact/learn from someone who has been acknowledged by society and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation as a “genius,” you might want to think about whether you’re actually into compsci before signing up for Spectral Graph Theory.

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