I cannot believe nobody has raved about Mehran Sahami here yet. He’s arguably the best Computer Science (CS) professor at the university with the best CS program in the world (Stanford), and he’s hands down the most inspiring professor I have ever studied with. I came to Stanford thinking I would become an English major. But I took a class with him and voila, now I’m a CS major.
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This is how Mehran Sahami looks on an average day.
Yes, he shows up in lectures with a lightsaber and a Darth Vader mask. When he needs to make a point, he turns the lightsaber on and it makes that sound like in the movie.
And do you see the bag of candies he has at his disposal? He started the tradition of a question a candy at Stanford. Whenever a student asks a question, he throws that person a candy bar. He has surprisingly good throws. Sometimes when he feels like it, he will make it rain—he will throw multiple candies at students and we will be scrambling to get them.
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Mark Zuckerberg is a regular at his lectures. I bet your professor can’t beat that.
He is not only a great teacher, but also a great researcher. He did Machine Learning way back in the 90s. He co-organized ICML/ AAAI-98 and IJCAI-99. Before joining the Stanford faculty, he was a Senior Research Scientist at Google and a Senior Engineering Manager at Epiphany.
His teaching has been cited as a reason for more women in CS at Stanford. He makes CS accessible and fun. His course CS106A can have a thousand students taking it at once, and the course has reached gender parity. Many people who take his class, like me, then go on to major in CS.
I have not only taken class with him, but also TA-ed for him, had the privilege of having dinner with him and visited his house. He is kind, thoughtful, and passionate about education. If I ever become a teacher, I want to become a teacher like him.
Stanford has plenty of his lectures online.