Teacher of the Year 2017 throws students in at the deep end with supervision
"I did not know that I could become even more proud of you." Kristian Rietveld's father responded to the news that his son was appointed Teacher of the Year 2017.
Krijn Rietveld, who unexpectedly passed away one month after the appointment of his son, was awarded a PhD in Biochemistry in Leiden and won the C.J. Kok price in 1985. With the money that came with this award, Rietveld Sr. bought a computer and the young Rietveld learned to use it. Driven by his former ambition to become an architect, he initially draws houses in WordPerfect using ASCII characters. Contrary to his LEGO constructions, his younger brother cannot break these constructions. Later, Rietveld discovers programming and writes his first, simple computer programs.
Programming virus leads to dissertation
In secondary school Kristian Rietveld is fully gripped by the programming virus and the choice to study computer science was easily made. Because he was brought up with fundamental research, he opts to study Computer Science in Leiden. The Leiden Institute of Advanced Computer Science (LIACS) emphasizes theory and the fundamental side of informatics, contrary to the informatics group in Delft, which is closer to Rietveld's home. Rietveld successfully completes the bachelor and master programmes in Computer Science and in 2014 he is awarded a PhD for the dissertation A Versatile Tuple-Based Optimization Framework.
'As practicum supervisor, I worked at the core of a small ARM operating system, which students could improve and expand during practicums. My PhD research in the High Performance Computing Group of LIACS also focused on software optimisation and the automatic generation of data structures for sparse matrix calculations. I put this experience into the development and implementation of new courses for the bachelor programme in Leiden,' explains Rietveld. He also contributes to the network and infrastructure of REL, the Research and Education Laboratory of LIACS.
Connecting with reality is key to valued education
Rietveld teaches the Computer Science bachelor courses Programming Techniques (now taken over by Erik van der Kouwe), Operating Systems and Computer Architecture. He also teaches the Programming Methods course for Physics and Astronomy students. Regularly his lectures run out because of interesting discussions. Self-reliance and reality are points of focus. 'Students are thrown in at the deep end with supervision. My student assistants and I expect students to come up with solutions themselves, in preparation for the future if they encounter new problems in science or business,' says Rietveld.
He notices that students increasingly want to know the applicability of the subject matter and emphasises the connection with reality. 'That is why I use as many practical assignments as possible, realistic problems that you solve with theory. Students want a fast computer, so during the practical sessions they learn what is underlying.'
The nomination for Teacher of the Year 2017 came as a surprise. 'I strive to provide challenging education by encouraging students to make discoveries themselves. If that is appreciated by the bachelor students and the jury, that is wonderful,' says Rietveld.
Purchasing development boards for students
Rietveld already has a purpose for the prize money. He wants to replace the current development boards with ARM architecture with boards with RISC-V architecture. 'This new open source processor is more basic and makes it easier for students to fully understand and learn how to optimise software for a specific architecture. In addition, it enables students to even study the source code of implementations of this architecture. Finally, it would be very interesting and instructive to use these boards in addition to Computer Architecture in the Operating Systems practical and to convert our existing ARM operating system into RISC-V architecture,' explains Rietveld.
Successive award for LIACS
In 2016, an Assistant Professor of LIACS was also elected Teacher of the Year. Rietveld's colleague Frank Takes was praised for his clear and new course material and his clear communication. 'The fundamental basic principles of computer science do not change, while the applications for e.g. smart mobility and connectivity change continuously. As teachers, it is our task to implement the theory in today's society. The fact that students at LIACS appreciate the transition Kris and I make in our lectures and practicums, and that this results in a successive award for Teacher of the Year is of course very nice," says Takes.