CRA Celebrates 50 Years of Impact at the Federated Computing Research Conference (FCRC)

In June, the brightest minds in computing research descended on Orlando, Florida to attend this year’s Federated Computing Research Conference (FCRC). Organized by the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) every four years, FCRC assembles a spectrum of affiliated research conferences and workshops into a week-long, co-located meeting that facilitates connections between researchers in different fields of computing and engineering. 


Timothy Pinkston (University of Southern California), who completed his term on the CRA Board of Directors on June 30, served as the chair for this year’s conference, which welcomed a total of 2,600 registrants to take part in 14 different conferences and symposia, in addition to two independent workshops hosted by CRA.


50 Years of CRA


Among the many highlights of the week was the conference’s first ever plenary panel discussion to celebrate CRA’s 50 year history. Organized and moderated by CRA Board Member Mary Hall (University of Utah), the lively panel discussion explored global computing research and its impact, digging into the evolution of programming languages, computer architecture, parallel and distributed computing, theory, and AI.


“In 1972, a group of North American department chairs in the emerging field of computer science got together and formed the Computer Science Board…” said Mary Hall, as she kicked off the discussion. “The CSB was the precursor to CRA, and in 1973 this group helped to organize the first computer science conference.”


View the recording of the panel here. 


Panelists included Hagit Attiya (Technion), Jack Dongarra (University of Tennessee at Knoxville), Lizy Kurian John (The University of Texas at Austin), Huan Liu (Arizona State University), and Guy L. Steele Jr. (Oracle Labs). 


CRA-I Half Day Workshop  


CRA’s newest committee, CRA-Industry (CRA-I), held a workshop that brought together more than 40 participants from the computing research community, including students, researchers, and industry leaders. The half day event provided a collaborative environment for participants in all levels from academia and industry to ask questions, share tips, and provide guidance to encourage partnerships and growth between these two sectors.


Participants engaged in two panel sessions and interactive discussions to exchange ideas and share insights on various topics. 


The first panel, moderated by CRA-I co-chair Ben Zorn (Microsoft), was on “AI, Society, and the Role of Computing Research” and included Lisa Amini (IBM), Margaret Martonosi (NSF), and Bart Selman (Cornell). It went into great detail about Regenerative AI and the need for regulations, testing, and certifications. During the panel, Bart Selman suggested that we should require a watermark to be added to any document when something has been generated by AI. 


The second panel, moderated by CRA-I co-chair Vivek Sarkar (GA Tech), was on “The Value and Relevance of having a PhD in Industry” and included Sujata Banerjee (VMware), Srilatha (Bobbie) Manne (AMD), and Parthasarathy Ranganathan (Google). This panel was particularly useful for the students in the room since it emphasized the importance of having a PhD in Industry. The case was made that if you are PhD prepared you have an upper edge in industry since you are theoretically more able to think broadly, deal with rejection, and have a greater understanding of what came before. 


The day wrapped up with an excellent keynote from Mark Hill, Microsoft (Azure) and U. Wisconsin (Emeritus), on “Driving Innovation in Academia and Industry” that was targeted to the students in the room. He recommended that you pick a problem, gather insight, and then come up with a first hypothesis. Then, once you solve that problem, put it in an undergraduate textbook to share with the younger generation. While he was mostly talking to the students in the audience, it was clear during the Q&A that his recommendations were also well received by the more senior researchers in the room.


CRA-I will be blogging about each of these panels and the keynote this summer in greater detail on their blog. Please keep your eye out and subscribe to CRA-I blog emails and other committee announcements here


CRA-E Teaching Oriented Careers Workshop


CRA’s Education committee, CRA-E, held a workshop for PhD students and postdocs who wanted to learn about academic career options with a focus on teaching and gain a better understanding of the landscape of academic positions. Experienced and successful academic leaders as well as junior faculty in different teaching oriented positions highlighted how to best prepare for the different teaching positions and compared teaching-focused career paths in three different panels. The workshop had 36 attendees in all and participants were eager to hear from the panelists. 


The first panel, “Teaching-Oriented Career Paths,” included Alison Norman (University of Texas at Austin), Jason Forsyth (James Mason University), Charlie Curtsinger (Grinnell College), and Brian Railing (Carnegie Mellon University). Each faculty described and reflected on their jobs, spanning the topics of expectations for teaching, advising, research, and service; pathways for job security and promotion; roles within the department and institution; support and mentoring; joys and challenges.


The second panel, “From Grad Student to Professor,” included Robbie Weber (University of Washington), Jomara Sandbulte (University of Minnesota at Duluth), Kristy Gardner (Amherst College). These early-career faculty in teaching-oriented positions reflected on their graduate school preparation for teaching-focused careers, their stories from the academic job search, and their experiences as new faculty. 


The third panel, “What are Recruiting Committees Looking For,” included Yael Gertner (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), Fernando Gonzales (Florida Gulf Coast University), and Stephen Freund (Williams College). Department and search committee chairs discussed what makes a strong applicant and a successful application at their respective institutions. They explained search committee goals, criteria, and timelines, as well as what candidates can expect during screening interviews, campus interviews, and offer negotiations.


The workshop ended with a networking session, where panelists divided themselves into categories at different tables, and attendees visited tables for discussions. The workshop was well received by all who attended. There were great questions from the attendees and great advice given from the panelist.