Computing Professionals Honored at Awards Dinner

LOS ALAMITOS, Calif., 15 June, 2010 – Computing professionals who made their marks on the industry with remarkable technical achievements and contributions were honored at a recent awards dinner in Denver, Colorado.

The awards presentation took place at the Renaissance Denver Hotel in conjunction with the IEEE Computer Society’s annual meeting. Coming from around the world and spanning decades of technology development, the 18 computer scientists and educators honored have made important and long-lasting contributions in such diverse areas as biometric systems, computational social networks, education, multimedia content analysis, privacy protection, and trust management.

Among the recipients were 2009 Computer Entrepreneur Award winners Len Bosack and Sandy Lerner, former Stanford University colleagues who founded Cisco Systems in 1986. “What a long strange trip it’s been,” said Bosack, reflecting on how he and Lerner established the company. “Our first customers were a veritable who’s who of the lunatic fringe.”

There was immediate demand for Cisco’s routers and other network equipment, and the rest is history. Cisco now employs more than 65,000 people and has a market capitalization of more than $131 billion.

Bosack has since gone on to head the optical networking equipment company XKL, where he is working on in-line fiber optic amplification systems that can achieve unprecedented data transmission latency speeds. Lerner operates an organic farm and established the Centre for the Study of Early English Women's Writing and the Chawton House Library in Hampshire, England.

Lynn Conway, winner of the 2010 Computer Pioneer Award, said the most amazing aspect of working in the computing industry is the ability to transform ideas into reality.

“We’re really fortunate to work in a field where we can do that,” said Conway, whose pioneering contributions include the development of scalable MOS design rules, simplified methods for silicon chip design, and a revolutionary teaching method for VLSI system design.

During her career, Conway worked for Xerox Palo Alto Research Center and the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. “When I reflect on my career, I feel lucky to have worked for two of the coolest research outfits ever,” said Conway, who joined the University of Michigan as Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science after leaving DARPA.

Fellow Computer Pioneer award winner Jean Sammet recalled her boss at Sperry Gryoscope in the 1950s asking her whether she wanted to be a programmer. She asked her boss what a programmer was, and he told her: “I don’t know, but I know we need one.”

Sammet went on to become one of the first developers and researchers in programming languages. She spent nearly three decades working for IBM and wrote “Programming Languages: History and Fundamentals,” which became an immediate classic when it was published in 1969.

Several recipients remarked that it still amazed them to be making a living doing such interesting work. “I can’t believe they’re paying us to have this much fun,” said Jack Davidson, who with fellow University of Virginia computer science professor James P. Cohoon was the recipient of the 2008 Taylor L. Booth Education Award.

The 2009 Booth winner, Michael T. Heath, computer science chair at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and director of the Computational Science and Engineering Program and the Center for Simulation of Advanced Rockets, agreed. “There’s no better job in the world than organizing knowledge and passing it on,” he said.

Willis K. King, a computer science professor at the University of Houston, and an active volunteer in accreditation activities since the early 1980s, won a standing ovation when his winning of the Richard E. Merwin Award for Distinguished Service was announced. Currently the chair of the History Committee and the Election Committee, King was the president of IEEE Computer Society in 2002.

The awards ceremony also honored the Computer Society’s five 2010 Technical Achievement Award winners and one 2009 winner. Among them are:

• Elena Ferrari, a computer science professor at Italy’s University of Insubria, an expert in data management systems;
• Venu Govindaraju, a Distinguished Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Buffalo, whose work in handwriting recognition led to systems in use by the US Postal Service, Australia Post, and the UK Royal Mail;
• Tyrone Grandison, program manager for IBM Services Research’s healthcare transformation group, who is developing innovative solutions for ensuring patient privacy and integrating information to create more complete views of patients;
• Eunice E. Santos, computer science chair at the University of Texas at El Paso and director of the National Center for Border Security and Immigration, a leading expert in large-scale distributed processing and computational modeling;
• Ashok N. Srivastava, principal investigator for NASA’s Integrated Vehicle Health Management project, and an expert on data mining; and
• Hong-Jiang Zhang, CTO for Microsoft China Research and Development Group and managing director of the Microsoft Advanced Technology Center, who is well-recognized for his leadership in media computing.

The other computing professionals honored were:

• Kenneth P. Birman, the N. Rama Rao Chair at Cornell University, who won the 2009 Tsutomu Kanai Award Recipient for his work on the development of trustworthy distributed computing systems;

• University of Cincinnati computer science professor Dharma P. Agrawa, whose expertise in ad-hoc, sensor, and mesh wireless and mobile networks won him the 2008 Harry H. Goode Memorial Award;

• Krishna V. Palem, the Ken and Audrey Kennedy Professor of Computing at Rice University and a leading expert in embedded computing, who was honored with the 2008 W. Wallace McDowell Award.

• Judy Robertson, a senior lecturer in computer science at Heriot-Watt University in Scotland, who was honored for her teaching activities with the Computer Science and Engineering Undergraduate Teaching Award.

Videotaped interviews with many of the recipients will soon be available in the Awards area of the IEEE Computer Society website. For more details on the awards program, visit http://www.computer.org/portal/web/awards.

About the IEEE Computer Society

With nearly 85,000 members, the IEEE Computer Society is the world’s leading organization of computing professionals. Founded in 1946, and the largest of the 39 societies of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the Computer Society is dedicated to advancing the theory and application of computer and information-processing technology, and is known globally for its computing standards activities. For more information, go to http://www.computer.org.

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