A Career Dedicated to Advancing Computer Architecture Earns Torrellas One More Distinction

2/22/2021 2:12:36 PM Aaron Seidlitz, Illinois CS

Josep Torrellas, Saburo Muroga Professor of Computer Science, has earned the 2021 IEEE Computer Society Harry H. Goode Award for his contribution to "energy efficient and programmable shared-memory multiprocessor architectures.”

Josep Torrellas, Saburo Muroga Professor of Computer Science.
Josep Torrellas, Saburo Muroga Professor of Computer Science.

His efforts in this area began with a PhD thesis at Stanford University, paving the way toward a successful career for the now longest serving faculty member with Illinois CS.

Since joining the department from Stanford in 1992, Torrellas’ interest in computer architecture remained steadfast due to the evolution of the machine he loves to study. His research approach centers on the idea of identifying the correct questions to address the most prominent problems, thus, encouraging the most progress.

“Computers are the most complicated pieces of equipment that exist, in my opinion,” Torrellas said. “So, it’s intriguing how they work, right? Whenever you put multiple processors together, then it gets even more complicated. These processors need to communicate, synchronize and operate in parallel.

“This was the basis of my PhD thesis, and I’ve continued to work on computer architecture as I’ve found it to be a simply inexhaustible area of study.”

As his research efforts grew, Torrellas’ s career also became quite decorated. He has now produced an incredible volume of impactful work and earned several recognitions, including:

  • The IEEE Computer Society 2015 Technical Achievement Award
  • Two Xerox Awards for Outstanding Faculty Research
  • The NSF Young Investigator Award
  • The C.W. Gear Outstanding Junior Faculty Award
  • The IBM Partnership Award
  • The Google Faculty Research Award
  • The High Impact Paper Award in 2012, as “one of the most cited papers in the first 30 years of ICCD”
  • IEEE, ACM and AAAS Fellow
  • Election to the Computing Research Association Board of Directors
  • 13 Best Paper awards among more than 200 published pieces, including 8 IEEE Micro Top Picks from Computer Architecture Conferences.

“I’m incredibly grateful to have earned recognitions like these, and the Harry H. Goode Award from IEEE does stand out if you look at the people who have received the award,” Torrellas said. “This includes current luminaries like professors Arvind, Yale Patt, Michael Flynn, Edward Davidson and Kunle Olukotun. If you look back further, there are many of the founders of our field, including Maurice Wilkes, Seymour Cray, John W. Mauchly, and J. Presper Eckert.

“It's an honor and a humbling experience to find myself among the best in our field currently, as well as the pioneers of computer systems."

Still, he has taken a selfless approach to recognitions like this, saying that it is the work that he wants to define his career – not the awards.

And his work speaks for itself.

As computers continue to adapt over time, Torrellas has found an endless supply of questions he’s sought to answer. He has continued to improve energy efficiency, programmability, security, performance and reliability as computing systems became more prevalent, big data centers came into existence, and cloud storage became a reality.

Notable projects include but are not limited to:

  • The Bulk Multicore Architecture for parallel programming productivity
  • The Intel Runnemede Extreme Scale Architecture
  • The Illinois Aggressive Cache Only Memory Architecture
  • The DARPA-funded M3T Polymorphic Computer Architecture
  • The NSF-funded FlexRAM Intelligent Memory project
  • The DARPA-funded IBM PERCS multiprocessor project

Over the years, Torrellas has enjoyed not just the results of such work but the collaborations and friendships that developed with his colleagues and students.

“Mentors and colleagues, like professors David Padua and David Kuck, have been great sources of guidance in my career,” Torrellas said. “But the part that inspires me the most is seeing so many former students graduate and move on to successful careers. Of the 43 PhDs I have graduated, some are in academia at places like Cornell, Georgia Tech, the University of Washington, MIT, Carnegie Mellon and other universities. Others are industry leaders at IBM, Intel and other companies.

“When I look back on the work, though, I recall all of the people who contributed to its success.”