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Software Engineer David Notkin, 1955 – 2013

Professor David Notkin

Professor David Notkin, a world-renowned software engineer also known as an extraordinary mentor.

Credit: Computer Science & Engineering, University of Washington

David Notkin, professor and Bradley Chair of the department of Computer Science & Engineering (CSE) of the University of Washington (UW), as well as associate dean of Research and Graduate Studies in the university's College of Engineering, recently passed away at the age of 58 following a long battle with cancer.

Notkin's educational and research interests were in software engineering, with a particular focus on software evolution; as he explained in his profile on the university's website, "understanding why software is so hard and expensive to change, and in turn reducing those difficulties and costs. These interests come from my firm belief that the ability to change software—that is, the ‘softness’ of software—is where its true power resides."

Born on New Year's Day 1955 in Syracuse, NY, Notkin received his B.Sc. in computer science at Brown University. After graduation in 1977, he continued his studies of computer science at the graduate level at Carnegie Mellon University, and on receiving his Ph.D. in 1984, moved to Seattle to join the faculty at the University of Washington, where he spent his professional career.

Notkin received a National Science Foundation Presidential Young Investigator Award in 1988. He was named an ACM Fellow and an IEEE Fellow, and received the University of Washington Distinguished Graduate Mentor Award, the ACM SIGSOFT Distinguished Service Award (2007), and the AMC SIGSOFT Influential Educator Award (2012). He was editor-in-chief of the publication ACM Transactions on Software Engineering and Methodology from 2007 through 2012. He also was serving as general chair of the 2013 International Conference on Software Engineering.

He also was a member of the board of the Computing Research Association (CRA), which had selected him as its 2013 A. Nico Habermann awardee, in recognition of his deep commitment to increasing the participation of women and underrepresented groups in computing (Notkin was a founding member of the National Center for Women and Information Technology, and provided pivotal leadership in that organization's early years as one of the first chairs of its Academic Alliance). The CRA Board of Directors, in naming Notkin to receive the award, cited his tireless work to advance the success of all students in computing, and his strong and consistent advocacy for the inclusion of women and members of other underrepresented groups in the field.

In February 2013, more than 300 people at UW CSE joined to recognize Notkin's contributions at an event labeled Notkinfest. At that event,UW CSE announced the establishment of the David Notkin Endowed Graduate Fellowship in Computer Science & Engineering, aimed at enabling UW CSE to recruit the strongest graduate students in the nation and the world, and to honor Notkin's scholarship, his leadership in the field of computer science, and his contributions to UW CSE.

An extraordinary mentor, David received the University of Washington Distinguished Graduate Mentor Award in 2000. His philosophy about working with students was: "Focus on the students, since graduating great students means you’ll produce great research, while focusing on the research may or may not produce great students."


Anthony Wasserman

David was a valuable leader of the software engineering community, and will be missed by all of us who have known him over the years. I know that he would have loved to attend next month's International Conference on Software Engineering in San Francisco, where he is the General Chair. The Program Chairs told me that they are planning to organize a tribute to him at the conference, and I look forward to that opportunity to pay respects to his memory.

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