Audrey St. John

Professor of Computer Science; Chair of Computer Science

Audrey St. John specializes in theoretical computer science, with her research focusing on the "rigidity theory" of structures motivated by applications such as robotics, computer-aided design (CAD) and computational biology. In 2013, she received a Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop a Rigidity Theory for Multi-Robot Formations. St. John's commitment to broadening participation in computer science and STEM at large is demonstrated through curricular development and co-curricular activities. She is a co-PI on a Google Computer Science Capacity Award for the MaGE: Megas and Gigas Educate peer mentorship program and is involved in the newly established Makerspace.

St. John enjoys the interdisciplinary nature of her research — the core theory spans computer science and mathematics while the applications range from engineering to biology, allowing her to collaborate with faculty from other disciplines and students with varying interests. Her NSF CAREER award supports research towards developing algorithms for autonomous control of multi-robot formations, motivated by scenarios such as search-and-rescue where collective transport of objects is required. St. John’s involvement in the NSF-funded Four College Biomath Consortium (4CBC) gives her the opportunity to work on computational methods for analyzing the flexibility of proteins, which has applications in drug design.

Having discovered computer science in college herself, St. John works to broaden participation in the field and the tech community at large. She believes engaging and challenging curriculum can empower students to reimagine their own interests and pathways and seeks to infuse excitement and ownership of the material in the courses she teaches. A 2015 recipient of the Mount Holyoke College Faculty Award for Teaching, St. John applies this philosophy in introductory-level courses (e.g., COMSC 101: Problem Solving & Object Oriented Programming and COMSC 201: Advanced Object Oriented Programming) and upper-level courses (her favorite is COMSC 311: Theory of Computation). It has also inspired her to create new courses, such as COMSC 106: iDesign Studio, created for students that might see themselves as “tech-phobic” and is now part of Makerspace programming. In addition, she is actively involved in co-curricular programming, including the development of MaGE with PI Heather Pon-Barry and co-PI Becky Wai-Ling Packard. This academic peer mentorship program centers on a rigorous training course to prepare students to become effective mentors equipped to create an inclusive learning environment for their peers.

Recent Campus News

Lydia Cheah ’20 took the Theory of Computation class at Mount Holyoke. She subsequently created videos as an independent study. Initially meant to support Mount Holyoke students, now the videos have thousands of views on YouTube.

Shifting climate in tech

Spurred by the mentoring of Mount Holyoke professors, Lydia Cheah ’20 has found herself leading the way to reshape the computer science career track. 

iDesign Studio class

IDesign Studio redefines tech perception

Mount Holyoke’s IDesign Studio demystifies technology, sparks artistic creativity, fuels entrepreneurial spirit and encourages risk-taking across academia.

When Hashma Shahid ’17 and Onji Bae ’18 discovered computer science at Mount Holyoke, their lives — and many others — were changed.

Computing for social impact

Girls in Tech, a day-long conference, was created by two Mount Holyoke students to introduce high school girls to the possibility of careers in technology.

Mount Holyoke College Library reading room. Photo by Michael Malyszko

New grants to Mount Holyoke and its faculty.

Mount Holyoke College and its professors received several grants and fellowships between November 2015 and March 2016.

Shani Mensing '15 and Safae Alaoui Lahgazi '17 soldering Neopixel LED strips.

Tech-tinkering class: A STEM gateway.

Crash course in programming and electronic design puts the power of production in the hands of community college students.

Recent Grants

Microsoft Corporation grant for the project "Development of Core Modules as Curricular Assets for Tech Mentorship Initiative." The project is for 2.5 months. Combined award to Audrey St. John (Computer Science), Heather Pon-Barry (Computer Science) and Becky Packard (Psychology and Education).

Recent Publications

Alyxander Burns*, Bernd Schulze, Audrey St. John. Persistent Multi-Robot Formations with Redundancy. In Proc. of 13th International Symposium on Distributed Autonomous Robotic Systems (DARS ’16), 2016.
* indicates undergraduate author

Heather Pon-Barry, Audrey St. John, Becky Packard, Barbara Rotundo. Megas and Gigas Educate (MaGE): A Curricular Peer Mentoring Program. Poster in Proc. of 47th ACM Technical Symposium on Computing Science Education (SIGCSE 2016), Memphis, TN, 2016.

James Farre*, Helena Kleinschmidt*, Jessica Sidman, Audrey St. John, Stephanie Stark*, Louis Theran, Xilin Yu*. Algorithms for detecting dependencies and rigid subsystems for CAD. Computer Aided Geometric Design, 47: 130-149, 2016.
* indicates undergraduate author

St. John, A. “The Power of Undergraduate Researchers,” AMS Blog on Teaching and Learning Mathematics, April 2015

Rittika Shamsuddin*, Milka Doktorova*, Sheila Jaswal, Audrey Lee-St. John and Kathryn McMenimen. Computational Prediction of Hinge Axes in Proteins. BMC Bioinformatics, 15(8), 2014
* indicates undergraduate author