ACM named Michael Franz of the University of California, Irvine the recipient of the 2020 ACM Charles P. “Chuck” Thacker Breakthrough in Computing Award. Franz is recognized for the development of just-in-time compilation techniques that enable fast and feature-rich web services on the internet. Every day, millions of people around the world use online applications such as Gmail and Facebook. These web applications would not have been possible without the groundbreaking compilation technique Franz developed in the mid 1990s.
“We all use web-based applications every day and they are now so prevalent that we often forget how revolutionary they were when they were first introduced,” said ACM President Gabriele Kotsis. “Whether we’re connecting with friends or colleagues on a social media platform, preparing our taxes using online software, or booking an accommodation at a hotel, we are using a web-based application. Michael Franz’s work certainly fits the Thacker Award’s criteria for ‘leapfrog contributions to computing ideas and technologies.’ Franz displayed foresight in working with Mozilla to implement his ideas on their browser and in making his technology open source so that it could be continually refined and adapted by developers worldwide.”
“Microsoft is proud to fund the Breakthrough in Computing Award, named after Chuck Thacker, one of the computing field’s true visionaries,” said Eric Horvitz, Microsoft’s Chief Scientific Officer. “Chuck had a magical ability to transform over-the-horizon computing dreams into world-changing realities. Michael Franz’s work on just-in-time compilation is a great choice for the Breakthrough in Computing honor. His work has been transformative, enabling today’s rich web experiences by allowing websites to execute sophisticated, interactive programs nearly instantaneously. Michael Franz’s insights, and his successful application of those insights, have had tremendous real-world impact.”
Michael Franz is a Chancellor's Professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of California (UC), Irvine where he also directs the Secure Systems and Software Laboratory. His current research emphasis is in software systems, particularly focusing on compiler, virtual machine, and related system-level techniques for making software safer, or faster, or both.
Franz received a Doctor of Technical Sciences degree in Computer Science and a Diplomingenieur, Informatik-Ing. ETH degree, both from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich). His honors include receiving a Humboldt Research Award from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, a National Science Foundation CAREER Award, an IEEE Computer Society Technical Achievement Award, and a Distinguished Mid-Career Faculty Award for Research from the University of California, Irvine. Franz is a Fellow of ACM, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and the International Federation for Information Processing (IFIP).