The ACM-W Athena Lecturer Award celebrates women researchers who have made fundamental contributions to Computer Science. Each year ACM will honor a preeminent woman computer scientist as the Athena Lecturer. Speakers are nominated by SIG officers. The Athena Lecturer will give a one-hour invited talk at an ACM conference determined by the speaker and the SIG which nominated her. A video of the talk will appear on the ACM website. The award includes travel expenses to the meeting and a $25,000 honorarium. Financial support for the Athena Lecturer Awards (2015-2016 through 2017-2018) is being provided by Google.

Information on ACM-W and nomination form.

ACM-W named Jennifer Rexford ACM-W 2016-2017 Athena Lecturer

ACM-W has named Jennifer Rexford of Princeton University as the 2016-2017 Athena Lecturer. Rexford was cited for innovations that improved the efficiency of the Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) in routing Internet traffic, for laying the groundwork for software-defined networks (SDNs) and for contributions in measuring and engineering IP networks. These contributions greatly enhanced the stability and flow of Internet transmissions, and make data networks easier to design, understand and manage.

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Jennifer Widom named ACM-W 2015-2016 Athena Lecturer

Jennifer Widom introduced the fundamental concepts and architectures of active database systems, a major area of research in the database field today. Active database systems allow application developers to embed logic into the database that allow actions to be executed when certain conditions are met. Active database systems have had a major impact on commercial database management systems, and most modern relational databases include active database features.

Widom made fundamental contributions to the study of semi-structured data management. Semi-structured data management systems are a key technology to support many advanced applications today, such as genomic databases, multimedia applications and digital libraries. Widom led the Lore project, which made important contributions on how to share, index and query semi-structured data sets, and developed the Lorel query language. Lorel has had a major impact on the research community, and many of its concepts have been applied to the design of query languages for XML data.

The Athena Lecturer is invited to present a lecture at an ACM event. Widom’s lecture was presented on June 2 at the 2015 ACM SIGMOD Conference in Melbourne, Australia. 

Press Release


ACM-W Names Susan T. Dumais 2014-2015 Athena Lecturer 

ACM-W named Susan T. Dumais of Microsoft Research as the 2014-2015 Athena Lecturer. Dumais introduced novel algorithms and interfaces for interactive retrieval that have made it easier for people to find, use and make sense of information. Her research, at the intersection of human-computer interaction and information retrieval, has broad applications for understanding and improving searching and browsing from the Internet to the desktop. The Athena Lecturer award celebrates women researchers who have made fundamental contributions to computer science. It includes a $10,000 honorarium provided by Google Inc.

“Dumais has helped us understand that the search is not the end goal,” said Mary Jane Irwin, who heads the ACM-W awards committee.  “Her focus is on understanding when and why people search, and presenting results in context to help integrate those results into the larger search process.  Her sustained contributions have shaped the thinking and direction of human-computer interaction and information retrieval, and influenced generations of student interns through collaborative projects with academic and industry partners.”

Dumais’ initial research demonstrated that different people use different vocabulary to describe the same thing, and that this mismatch limits the success of traditional keyword-based information retrieval methods.  To build search systems that avoided the vocabulary problem, she and her colleagues invented Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI).  A key feature of LSI is its ability to extract the latent conceptual structure from a large collection of texts by analyzing the associations between terms that occur in similar contexts, thus enabling a search engine to retrieve using concepts rather than keywords.  Beyond information retrieval, LSI has been used to model various aspects of human cognition such as language acquisition and textual coherence.

Recently, Dumais’ research has analyzed how web content changes over time and how people revisit web pages, establishing that re-visitation patterns are influenced by user intent and changes in content.  Her results have produced a retrieval model that uses web page changes to improve search ranking, and new tools to help people understand how the information they interact with changes over time in both expected and unexpected ways.  Finally, her research on user modeling and context has enabled search engines to personalize search experiences for different individuals.

The author of more than 200 articles on information science, human-computer interaction, and cognitive science, Dumais holds several patents on novel retrieval algorithms and interfaces. 

Yelick Named 2013-2014 Athena Lecturer

ACM named Katherine Yelick of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory as the 2013-2014 Athena Lecturer. Yelick, also a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, has improved fundamental understanding and practice of parallel programming, which uses multiple processing elements simultaneously to solve a problem. She developed novel performance tuning, compilation and runtime systems, which implement the core behavior of computer languages.

"Yelick's innovative software is used in both the research community and in production environments," said Mary Jane Irwin, who heads the ACM-W awards committee. "She has taken on the challenges of software developers in the age of exascale computing and helped them become more efficient in this environment. An effective teacher and mentor, she been a role model for the computing community."