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Communications of the ACM


ACM Announces 2014 Award Recipients

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ACM recently announced the recipients of its 2014 Software System Award, Distinguished Service Award, Outstanding Contribution to ACM Award, and Doctoral Dissertation Awards.

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Software System Award

Mach, a pioneering operating system used as the basis for later operating systems, received the 2014 ACM Software System Award. Lead developers Rick Rashid of Microsoft and Avadis (Avie) Tevanian created an operating system, whose innovative approaches to virtual memory management and microkernel architecture established a foundation for later operating systems on personal computers, tablets, and mobile phones.


The Mach operating system, a research project funded by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency at Carnegie Mellon University from 1983 through 1992, was based on innovative approaches to virtual memory management and microkernel architecture. Mach's influence reflects both significant commercial acceptance and substantial contributions to the concept of operating systems.

The Mach kernel forms the heart of the Apple iOS and OS X systems. Mach was at the core of NeXT's operating system, which Apple acquired and subsequently used as the basis of OS X and iOS. Mach's influence can also be traced to operating systems such as GNU Hurd, and UNIX systems OSF/1, Digital Unix, and Tru64 Unix.

Rashid, who graduated from Stanford University with degrees in mathematics and comparative literature and earned M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in computer science from the University of Rochester, founded Microsoft Research in 1991. Today, he is vice president and chief research officer of Microsoft's Applications and Services Group.

Tevanian, who holds a B.A. in mathematics from the University of Rochester and earned M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in computer science from Carnegie Mellon University, spent nearly 10 years at Apple and was a member of the company's leadership team, before becoming managing director of Elevation Partners, a private equity firm.


The ACM Software System Award honors an institution or individual for developing a software system that has had a lasting influence, reflected in contributions to concepts, in commercial acceptance, or both. The award is accompanied by a prize of $35,000. Financial support for the award is provided by IBM.

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Distinguished Service, Outstanding Contribution to ACM

Jeannette Wing of Microsoft Research has been named recipient of the 2014 ACM Distinguished Service Award, and Dame Wendy Hall of the University of Southampton has been selected to receive the 2014 Outstanding Contribution to ACM Award.


Wing was cited for her advocacy of "computational thinking," which can be used to algorithmically solve complicated problems of scale; her leadership of the Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) Directorate of the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), "and for drawing new and diverse audiences to the field of computer science."

As corporate vice president of Microsoft Research, Wing oversees its core research laboratories around the world. Previously, she led the CISE Directorate of the NSF, and was the President's Professor of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University.

Wing earned S.B. and S.M. degrees in electrical engineering and computer science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where she also received a Ph.D. in computer science.

The Distinguished Service Award is presented based on the value and degree of services to the computing community, including consideration of activities outside ACM and emphasizing contributions to the computing community at large.

The first ACM president from outside North America, Hall was cited "for guiding ACM to become a truly international organization, helping improve diversity within ACM, and working to increase ACM's visibility in scientific venues worldwide."


Hall initiated the establishment of ACM Councils in Europe, India, and China, and has focused on the education of upcoming computer science generations, promoting gender diversity and nurturing talent in computing from all corners of the world. A professor of computer science at the University of Southampton, U.K., Hall was a founding director of the Web Science Research Initiative to promote the discipline of Web Science and foster research collaboration between the University of Southampton and MIT.

A native of London, Hall received B.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees in mathematics from the University of Southampton, and a Master of Science degree in computing from City College London. She has served as president of the British Computer Society, and since 2014, has served as a commissioner for the Global Commission on Internet Governance. In 2009, she was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire.

Outstanding Contribution to ACM Award recipients are selected based on the value and degree of their service to ACM.

"The computing field has benefited immensely from the passion and energy of these two world-leading computer scientists," said ACM President Alexander L. Wolf. "Wing recognized early on that the ever-increasing impact of computing in modern society must be accompanied by a language in which we can discuss computing's intellectual underpinnings with those not versed in its technical complexities.

"Hall provided leadership and inspiration at a time when the computing discipline exploded onto the international scene, promoting ACM as the foremost association of computing professionals worldwide."

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Doctoral Dissertation

Matei Zaharia has been selected to receive ACM's 2014 Doctoral Dissertation Award for his innovative solution to tackling the surge in data processing workloads and accommodating the speed and sophistication of complex multistage applications and more interactive ad hoc queries. His work proposed a new architecture for cluster computing systems, achieving best-in-class performance in a variety of workloads while providing a simple programming model that lets users easily and efficiently combine them.


To address the limited processing capabilities of single machines in an age of growing data volumes and stalling process speeds, Zaharia developed Resilient Distributed Datasets (RDDs). As described in his dissertation "An Architecture for Fast and General Data Processing on Large Clusters" (, RDDs are a distributed memory abstraction that lets programmers perform computations on large clusters in a fault-tolerant manner. Zaharia implements RDDs in the open source Apache Spark system, which matches or exceeds the performance of specialized systems in many application domains, achieving speeds up to 100 times faster for certain applications. It also offers stronger fault tolerance guarantees and allows these workloads to be combined.

An assistant professor in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, Zaharia completed his dissertation at the University of California, Berkeley, which nominated him. Zaharia received a Bachelor of Mathematics degree from the University of Waterloo, where he won a gold medal at the ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest in 2005. He is a co-founder and chief technology officer of Databricks, the company commercializing Apache Spark.

ACM's annual Doctoral Dissertation Award comes with a $20,000 prize. Financial sponsorship of the award is provided by Google Inc.

Honorable Mention for the 2014 ACM Doctoral Dissertation Award went to John Criswell of the University of Rochester, and John C. Duchi of Stanford University, who share a $10,000 prize, with financial sponsorship provided by Google Inc.

Criswell's dissertation, "Secure Virtual Architecture: Security for Commodity Software Systems" (, describes a compiler-based infrastructure designed to address the challenges of securing systems that use commodity operating systems like UNIX or Linux.


Duchi's dissertation, "Multiple Optimality Guarantees in Statistical Learning" (, explores trade-offs that occur in modern statistical and machine learning applications.


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Lawrence M. Fisher is Senior Editor/News for ACM Magazines

©2015 ACM  0001-0782/15/07

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