Mary Jane Irwin Wins Athena Award

Originally Printed in the Winter/Spring 2010 Newsletter

The Association for Computing Machinery’s Council on Women in Computing (ACM-W) has named Mary Jane Irwin of the Pennsylvania State University as the 2010-2011 Athena Lecturer for her outstanding research contributions to computer-aided design, computer arithmetic, and computer architecture. Janie designed novel computer structures that are used in lap-tops to vastly improve the performance of image and speech applications. She also developed techniques to automate computer aided design (CAD) activities, which have been assimilated by the CAD industry. The award, which celebrates women researchers who have made fundamental contributions to computer science, includes a $10,000 honorarium, which is provided by Google Inc.

Janie’s landmark contribution is the design of the first architecture for Discrete Wavelet Transform, a process that decomposes a signal into a set of basic functions.  This advance provides optimal performance for signal processing and image compression used in computer-aided design.  To address bottlenecks in hardware design progress resulting from poor design tools, she developed a new addition algorithm, known as ELM, which offers superior energy and performance characteristics that are now found in many computers.

Janie was one of the first researchers in computer architecture to predict that energy would become the next important constraint for high-performance systems developers of computer-aided design. To remedy this issue, she created the first architectural-level power simulator to optimize power consumption and facilitate an energy-aware design approach.

The Evan Pugh Professor of Computer Science at Penn State, Janie also holds the A. Robert Noll Chair in Engi-neering in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering.  She serves on the Computer Research Association’s Committee on Women (CRA-W) Steering Committee and was co-chair of CRA-W from 1994-1997 with Fran Berman.  She also serves on the Board on Army Science and Technology as well as the External Research Advisory board of Microsoft Research.

Janie was inducted into the National Academy of Engineering in 2003, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2009, and was named a Fellow of ACM in 1996.  In 2007, she received the Anita Borg Technical Leadership Award.  She has also served as a founding Co-Editor-in-Chief of ACM’s Journal on Emerging Technologies (JETC)  from 2004 to 2006, and Editor-in-Chief of ACM’s Transactions on the Design Automation of Electronic Systems (TODAES) from 1998-2004.  She was vice president of ACM from 1997 to 1998.

A graduate of Memphis State University with a B.S. in mathematics, Janie  received M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in com-puter science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  She was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Chalmers University in Sweden.

The Athena Lecturer is invited to present a lecture at an ACM event.  Janie’s lecture, entitled “Shared Caches in Multicores: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly”,  will be presented at the ACM/IEEE International Symposium on Computer Architecture (ISCA) in Saint Malo, France on June 22, 2010.  Each year, the Athena Lecturer honors a preeminent woman computer scientist. Athena is the Greek goddess of wisdom; with her knowledge and sense of purpose, she epitomizes the strength, determination, and intelligence of the “Athena Lecturers.” The 2010-2011 Athena Lecturer Award will be presented at the ACM Annual Awards Banquet, June 26, in San Francisco, CA.