CS Department Recognizes Outstanding Alumni
On October 23, CS @ ILLINOIS held its fifth annual Alumni Awards Ceremony and Banquet. This annual event gives the department an opportunity to recognize those alumni and faculty whose work has had an impact on the field of computer science and the world at large. At this year’s banquet, fourteen individuals were recognized.
Distinguished Achievement Award
The CS @ ILLINOIS Distinguished Achievement Award honors computer science graduates who have made professional and technical contributions that bring distinction to themselves, the department, and the university. This year Rick Cattell, Jackson Hu, Pete Koomen, Lynn Reedy, and Russ Simmons were recognized.
During his 20+ years at Sun Microsystems, Rick Cattell (BS CS ‘74) was best known for his contributions to database and server software, including database scalability, enterprise Java, object/relational mapping, object-oriented databases, and database interfaces. Today, Cattell is an independent consultant in database systems; he is an ACM Fellow, holds seven U.S. patents, and has written five books.
Jackson Hu (MS CS ’76, PhD ’78), a distinguished 40-year semiconductor industry veteran, is the chairman and CEO of NeoEnergy Microelectronics. During his career, Hu led the team that developed the industry’s first GUI accelerator chip that enabled Microsoft Windows to run more smoothly and quickly, he led the development of a cost-effective and accurate chipset that brought GPS into smartphones, and he was chairman and CEO at UMC, the world’s second largest semiconductor foundry.
Pete Koomen (MS CS ’06) is the co-founder and CTO of Optimizely, which makes an experience optimization platform for websites and mobile apps. Before that, Koomen spent three years as a product manager at Google, where he helped launch and grow Google App Engine. He also co-wrote the book A/B Testing: The Most Powerful Way to Turn Clicks into Customers, which focuses on how companies can influence people’s behavior when they visit their website.
A successful technology executive, Lynn Reedy (BS Math & CS ’77) has worked in software and software development her entire career. She is best known for leading the complete redesign of eBay’s website—both hardware and software—without disrupting the auction site’s operations while she was CTO.
Russ Simmons (BS CS ’98), the one-time lead software architect at PayPal, helped design the web-based payment system from scratch. In 2004, he co-founded Yelp, the popular social networking site that allows users to write reviews of local businesses, and served as the company CTO until 2010. Today, Simmons is exploring new approaches to education through a video-based foreign language product.
Distinguished Educator Award
The CS @ ILLINOIS Distinguished Educator Award honors computer science alumni or faculty members who have made outstanding contributions to computer science education and research, and recognizes those who excel at motivating computer science students. This year’s recipients were Nancy Amato, Luis Ceze, Apu Kapadia, and Paul Saylor.
Nancy Amato (PhD CS ’95) is the Unocal Professor of CS and Engineering (CSE) at Texas A&M University, where she has advised 41 PhD and MS graduates. As a researcher, Amato is known for her contributions to the algorithmic foundations of motion planning in robotics and computational biology. She is also known for being a tireless and highly effective leader of programs that engage women and underrepresented minorities in computing research.
Luis Ceze (PhD CS ’07) is the Torode Family Career Development Professor of Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington. His work has enhanced the performance of multicore processors in notebook and tablet computers, while improving programmability, reliability and energy efficiency. He has founded two successful companies that advance parallelism.
Apu Kapadia (BS CS ’98, MS ’01, PhD ’05) is an associate professor of Computer Science and Informatics at Indiana University, where he is investigating topics related to security and privacy from a systems and human-factors perspective. He has received an NSF CAREER Award, a 2014 Google Research Award, and 2013 Indiana University Trustees Teaching Award.
During his 34-year Illinois career, CS Professor Emeritus Paul Saylor conducted pioneering work in numerical analysis, solving large-scale scientific problems in areas ranging from geophysics to medical imaging. He also taught numerical analysis classes. Saylor and his wife Cynthia were close friends with Illinois alumnus Gene Golub (BS math 1953, MA stats 1954, PhD math 1959, Hon DSc 1991), the late Stanford CS faculty member and pioneer in the numerical analysis field. Golub endowed a CS faculty chair at Illinois in honor of Saylor’s kindness, support, and generosity, as well as his dedication to his students and the academic life.
Distinguished Service Award
The CS @ ILLINOIS Distinguished Service Award honors alumni or faculty members who have demonstrated an outstanding level of commitment to the department and its students, faculty, and alumni through their support and service. This year’s honorees were William Dunn and Dave Paola.
William Dunn (BS CS ‘86, MS ’87) is the president and founder of Dunn Solutions Group, an IT consulting firm focused on business intelligence (data warehousing, big data, and predictive analytics) and custom application development, including mobile applications, portals, and custom web applications.
Dave Paola (BS CS ’10) is co-founder and CTO of Bloc, a company that began as an experiment in online mentorship and turned into a successful company. Bloc is the world’s largest online software development boot camp. Before starting Bloc, Paola was a software engineer at Kontagent/Upsight, a scalable analytics and marketing platform for web and mobile app developers.
C. W. Gear Outstanding Junior Faculty Award
Established by alumni, friends, and former students to recognize contributions and services of C. William Gear, head of the department from 1985 to 1990, the C. W. Gear Outstanding Junior Faculty Award recognizes junior faculty for their outstanding research and teaching.
This year’s recipient is Assistant Professor Paris Smaragdis. His research revolves around making machines that can understand sound the same way people do. He has created new tools for processing and analyzing time series, and his work draws heavily from the fields of machine learning and statistical signal processing. He has received the College of Engineering’s Outstanding Advisor Award, is frequently named to the campus list of teachers ranked as excellent by their students, and he is developing multiple new cross-disciplinary courses on machine learning, signal analysis, and media processing.
David J. Kuck Outstanding Thesis Awards
These awards were established by alumni, former students, and friends in recognition of Professor Kuck's intellectual and leadership contributions. Each year, two awards are given: one for an outstanding doctoral thesis and one for an outstanding master's thesis. This year’s recipients are John Criswell (PhD award) and Cosmin Rădoi (MS award)
As a member of Professor Vikram Adve’s research group (2003–2014), John Criswell (PhD CS ‘14) developed a Secure Virtual Architecture for commodity software systems, which was the first to provide strong automatic protection for an OS kernel like Linux or FreeBSD. Today, Criswell is an assistant professor of computer science at the University of Rochester, where his research focuses on computer security and automatic compiler transformations to enforce security policies on commodity software.
Prior to the banquet, awards recipients, students, and faculty were able to attend a keynote address from Turing Award winner Andrew Chi-Chih Yao (PhD CS ‘75).
For more information on our CS @ ILLINOIS Awards categories, and to read fuller biographies of this years recipients, see our Alumni Awards page.