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Jeffrey Ullman receives Turing Award

National College of Ireland is proud to congratulate Professor Jeffrey Ullman, chair of NCI’s School of Computing’s International Advisory Board, on receiving the Turing Award.

Jeffrey Ullman, Stanford W. Ascherman Professor of Computer Science, Emeritus, at Stanford University, is co-recipient with his long-time collaborator Alfred Aho of Columbia University. The Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) presents this award, which includes a $1 million prize, to recognise profound impact on the field of Computer Science. Ullman and Aho have earned this accolade through their seminal work in compilers and algorithms.

“Aho and Ullman established bedrock ideas about algorithms, formal languages, compilers and databases, which were instrumental in the development of today’s programming and software landscape,” said Jeff Dean, Google senior fellow and SVP, Google AI, in an announcement distributed by the ACM.

“Professor Ullman has been invaluable in chairing our International Advisory Board,” said Dr Pramod Pathak, Dean of the School of Computing at NCI, “including being part of the team that established NCI’s Cloud Competency Centre in 2012, which was the first of its kind in Ireland, and continues to set standards for excellence in teaching and research in cloud computing. We have had the privilege of direct experience of Professor Ullman’s expertise and influence - and his own modesty about his brilliance - and are proud to congratulate him on his Turing Award, it is most well-deserved.”

Specifically named in the award citation are two of the nine textbooks co-authored by Ullman and Aho, The Design and Analysis of Computer Algorithms from 1974 and Principles of Compiler Design (also known circles as “the Dragon Book” after its cover illustration of a knight fighting a dragon) published in 1977. 

Dr Horacio González-Vélez, Head of the Cloud Competency Centre at National College of Ireland, commented: “It is hard to describe to someone outside the field of Computer Science just how well-known and admired Professor Ullman is, and how appropriate it is that he has received an A.M. Turing Award. When Professor Ullman last visited us here in Dublin, in 2018, I asked him to autograph my copy of the Dragon Book, which I had used as a text book during my undergraduate degree – for so many professionals and academics all around the world, this will have been a core text in their computing education. The acknowledgement of his work as ‘seminal’ is no exaggeration. For those of us in Computer Science, this is like seeing Scorsese finally win an Oscar.”

Jeffrey Ullman and Alfred Aho each earned doctorates at Princeton University and then joined Bell Labs in 1966. Professor Ullman left Bell for an academic post at Princeton in 1969, moving to Stanford in 1979. Professor Aho continued working in the corporate world before joining the faculty at Columbia in the 90s. Their professional collaboration continued throughout this time.

First awarded by the ACM in 1966, the A.M. Turing Award is named for Alan M. Turing, the British mathematician best known for breaking Germany’s Enigma code system during World War II. The list of prior winners includes “computer scientists and engineers who created the systems and underlying theoretical foundations that have propelled the information technology industry.”

The Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) brings together computing educators, researchers, and professionals from all around the globe to inspire dialogue, share resources, and address the field's challenges. As the world’s largest computing society, founded at the dawn of the computer age, ACM strengthens the profession's collective voice through strong leadership, promotion of the highest standards, and recognition of technical excellence. ACM supports the professional growth of its members by providing opportunities for life‐long learning, career development, and professional networking.

Dr Horacio González-Vélez was recently, himself, recognised by the ACM as a Senior Member. This award acknowledges his technical leadership and professional contribution to computing; it is only presented to those with ten years or more of experience, who have demonstrated these qualities in their work.