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Estrin Awarded McArthur 'Genius Grant'

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New MacArthur Fellow Deborah Estrin.

Deborah Estrin is the one computer scientist among this year's 25 new MacArthur Fellows.

Credit: MacArthur Foundation

Cornell Tech computer science professor Deborah Estrin was among the 25 people named MacArthur Fellows this week. The MacArthur Foundation, which bestows the fellowships, said Estrin was chosen for "designing open-source platforms that leverage mobile devices and data to address socio-technological challenges such as personal health management."

Estrin, 58, earned her bachelor of science degree from the University of California at Berkeley, and master of science and doctorate degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She taught at the University of Southern California and the University of California at Los Angeles, prior to joining the faculty of Cornell Tech in 2012, where she is a professor in the Department of Computer Science and associate dean.

Estrin was named an ACM fellow in 2000 "for significant contributions to the design of scalable Internet protocols, and for service to the networking community."

In 2006, she received the prestigious ACM Athena Lecturer Award, which is bestowed annually in celebration of women researchers who have made fundamental contributions to computer science; the recipient, as Athena Lecturer, gives an invited talk at a major ACM conference of her choice. Estrin presented her Athena Lecture at the MobiCom 2006 Conference on the topic of "Wireless Sensing Systems: From ecosystems to human systems."

The MacArthur Foundation said Estrin "has demonstrated a remarkable ability to anticipate the applicability of technological advances to a variety of fields. She made fundamental contributions to improving the scalability and broader utility of the emerging Internet through her work on network routing (the process that determines how data are forwarded from source to destination). She then went on to build the foundational protocols for wireless sensor networks—that is, connectivity among distributed autonomous sensors that record conditions in a specific environment. "

In 2011, Estrin and collaborators launched an open source software architecture called Open mHealth to integrate various types of data, which can be used to build customized applications that address specific health conditions. In addition, she and colleagues in Cornell Tech's Small Data Lab are developing several platforms and applications for management and use of personal data.

"By designing and promoting the open data architecture needed to bring about its broader availability and adoption," the Foundation said, "Estrin is addressing many challenges to, and opportunities for, socially important applications of mobile health."

"I was and remain very humbled and grateful," said Estrin. "I feel a sense of commitment to do good by it, and to live up to it."

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation annually bestows MacArthur Fellowships, unofficially known as "Genius Grants," to 20–30 individuals from any field who have shown "extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction" and are citizens or residents of the U.S. The fellowship is not seen as a reward for past accomplishment, "but rather an investment in a person's originality, insight, and potential," according to the MacArthur Foundation website. Recipients are each awarded $625,000, paid over five years in quarterly installments.


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