Nancy Amato Named Next Department Head of Computer Science


Amato, who graduated from Illinois in 1995 with a PhD in computer science, will become the first woman to lead the department.

Written by

Nancy Amato
Photo Credit: Photo by L. Brian Stauffer
Nancy Amato
Dr. Nancy Amato has been named the next Head of the Department of Computer Science and an Abel Bliss Professor of Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She begins her position on January 7, 2019, pending approval by the Board of Trustees.

Amato, who becomes the first woman to lead the department, comes to Illinois from Texas A&M University, where she is currently Regents Professor and Unocal Professor of Computer Science and Engineering. Amato earned a Ph.D. from Illinois in 1995 after completing a B.S. in mathematical sciences and an A.B. in economics from Stanford University in 1986 and an M.S. in computer science from the University of California at Berkeley in 1988.

“We are thrilled to bring in someone with the esteem of Nancy Amato to lead the Department of Computer Science,” said Tamer Başar, Interim Dean, College of Engineering. “Her global research reputation, the quality of her teaching, and her impact through an array of leadership positions will be a terrific asset for the department and the college. Our computer science programs’ students and faculty have a great reputation. Professor Amato will grow our profile and impact even further in the coming years. This is a spectacular match.”

Amato said she is thankful to return to Illinois, and noted the land-grant origins that her new home shares with Texas A&M.

“I’m honored, humbled, and excited to rejoin my alma mater during this time of awesome opportunity and explosive interest in our field," she said. "Illinois CS has been among the top programs since the beginning, and, as the only land-grant institution in the top five, it has a unique opportunity and responsibility to lead not only in research but in computer science education."

"Our challenge is to continue to capitalize on the research opportunities while ensuring access to top-quality computing education for all UI students," Amato continued. "Based on many great discussions with the faculty, students and staff, I can tell we'll have a ton of fun brainstorming, planning and implementing.  I can't wait to get started!”

Amato joined the faculty at Texas A&M in 1995. Her research areas are in motion planning in robotics, parallel algorithms, and bio-informatics. Over a period of 25-plus years, she has contributed to these areas in both theory and applications, and has emerged as a world-renowned authority in these areas.

At Texas A&M, Amato served as Interim Head of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering for one year, and she has been Senior Director for the Honors Program in the College of Engineering since 2014.  She received the A&M’s Association of Former Students Distinguished Achievement Award in Teaching in 2011, the TEES Senior Fellow Award from the Texas A&M College of Engineering in 2009-2010, and a university-level research award in 2018.

Amato has also held leadership positions in various professional societies and organizations, such as the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society, which has also bestowed her with their Distinguished Service Award in 2017. She has been on the board of the Computing Research Association (CRA) since 2014 and was co-chair of the CRA-Women Committee from 2014-2017. Amato received the CRA Habermann Award in 2014 for her tireless efforts to engage women and underrepresented minorities in computing research.

She also earned the National Center for Women & Information in Technology’s inaugural Harrold/Notkin Research and Graduate Mentoring Award in 2014. In addition, her standing in the profession has also been recognized through various awards, such as AAAI Fellow (2018), ACM Fellow (2015), AAAS Fellow (2013), and IEEE Fellow (2010).

Share this story

This story was published July 12, 2018.