Gmachl and Kernighan recognized for outstanding service and mentorship

The School of Engineering and Applied Science has honored professors Brian Kernighan and Claire Gmachl with awards for excellence in service and mentoring, respectively. These annual awards were created in 2023 by the engineering school to recognize faculty for some of their most important work beyond research and teaching.

Brian Kernighan, the William O. Baker *39 Professor in Computer Science, is the recipient of the SEAS Faculty Distinguished Service Award.

Brian Kernighan
Brian Kernighan. Photo by David Kelly Crow

In nominating Kernighan for the award, Szymon Rusinkiewicz, chair of the computer science department, wrote that “in addition to his legendary contributions to computing,” Kernighan has “served the department, the school, the university and the field in a dizzying array of service roles.”

After completing a Ph.D. in electrical engineering at Princeton and working for 30 years at AT&T Bell Laboratories, Kernighan joined the Princeton faculty in 2000. He has served as a director of undergraduate studies in the department since 2001, a time of enormous growth of enrollment in computer science. The role is now shared between two faculty members, with Kernighan serving as the point of contact for non-majors, pre-majors, and those who wish to study abroad.

Kernighan’s over two decades of service advising undergraduates, Rusinkiewicz wrote, “has made him an institution” and a “font of wisdom” on all matters related to the undergraduate program. He also teaches the department’s introductory course for non-majors, as well as independent-work seminars and freshman seminars. “It is Brian’s generosity that shines — he always has an open door for students.”

He has also served on many University committees, including most recently the Committee on Appointments and Advancements in the Lecturer Ranks. He has been a faculty adviser at Forbes College since 2001. He is an affiliated faculty member in the Center for Digital Humanities and has periodically served as its director. He is also an active member of the Executive Committee of the Center for Information Technology Policy.

Among other honors, he has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, is a recipient of the USENIX Association Lifetime Achievement Award and is a member of the National Academy of Engineering.

Claire Gmachl, the Eugene Higgins Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, is the recipient of the SEAS Excellence in Mentoring Award.

In nominating Gmachl for the award, James Sturm, chair of electrical and computer engineering, wrote that “she has been an exemplary mentor to many students” and has “selflessly devoted her career not only to mentoring those who might otherwise slip through the cracks at Princeton, but helping them to excel well beyond Princeton.”

Claire Gmachl sitting outside
Claire Gmachl. Photo by Sameer A. Khan/Fotobuddy

Gmachl joined Princeton in 2003 after eight years at AT&T Bell Laboratories. She is currently associate chair of electrical and computer engineering and has been the head of Whitman College since 2019.

“Claire is the embodiment of patient, dedicated, thoughtful and generous mentoring,” wrote Alexis Andres, who worked with Gmachl at Whitman College and is now the dean of Yeh College. “Many Princeton University B.S.E. students owe their strong starts to her.”

Each summer for the past several years, Gmachl has taught a course she designed as part of the Freshman Scholars Institute, a summer residential program for incoming first-years. She also co-founded the first-year math and physics courses at Princeton Engineering, a set of courses that are designed for students who did not did not take advanced physics and math in high school. The courses now enroll about 10% of Princeton first-years, according to Sturm. “Her dedication to the program is hard to believe,” he wrote.

Gmachl is affiliated faculty at the Princeton Materials Institute and the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment, where she served as interim director from 2021 to 2023. She also served as vice dean of the engineering school from 2013 to 2014.

Gmachl has been widely recognized for her teaching and mentorship. In 2022 she received a Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in Teaching from the engineering school. She has also received a President’s Award for Distinguished Teaching and a Graduate Mentoring Award from Princeton.


  • Brian Kernighan

  • Claire Gmachl

Related Departments

  • Computer Science

    Computer Science

  • Professor writes on white board while talking with grad student.

    Electrical and Computer Engineering