AMHERST, Mass. – Dean Laura Haas of the College of Information and Computer Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst has been chosen to receive the IEEE Computer Society’s Computer Pioneer Award for 2019 “for significant contributions to early concepts and developments in the electronic computer field that have clearly advanced the state of the art in computing.”
In particular, Haas is being recognized for “pioneering innovations in the architecture of federated databases and in the integration of data from multiple, heterogeneous sources.” She will receive a silver medal and has been invited to speak at the society’s Board of Governors’ awards dinner on June 5 in Coral Gables, Fla.
Haas says of the recognition, “I am honored and very grateful to receive this year’s IEEE Computing Pioneer Award. Previous awardees are the stars of computer science, so this feels very special. I’m proud that the information integration technologies I helped to develop at IBM were given life in IBM products, and I am thrilled to now be guiding the College of Information and Computer Sciences as it grows in the broader field of data science.”
Alexandra Meliou, CICS assistant professor whose research focuses on database systems management, says, “Laura Haas’ early research produced one of the first federated database systems, called Garlic, which pioneered a faster, more efficient way to integrate data. We have her groundbreaking work to thank when using systems like electronic medical records that allow us to use one interface to quickly search for different types of data from varied data sources.”
Garlic was a “data-less database” that allowed users to ask questions for which the answer required information from many and varied data sources. For example, pharmaceutical companies used it to combine information from chemical stores with data from biological assays to identify potential new drugs with certain properties. As one of the first federated database systems, Garlic provided a system where data was integrated only as needed. A federated data system maps several database systems into a single, or federated, database. At the time, this approach was in sharp contrast to existing integration engines that built carefully planned warehouses where data were collected and grouped together ahead of time.
Haas followed this advance with new and creative tools that made it significantly easier to tell an integration system, federated or warehouse, what data to integrate and how to do so, launching an entire subfield of database theory.
Haas came to UMass Amherst in August 2017 after 35 years at IBM, where she was accorded the honor of IBM Fellow among several other awards, in recognition of her research impact. At the time of her retirement from IBM, she was director of its Accelerated Discovery Lab, and for many years had worldwide responsibility for IBM Research’s exploratory science program.
Haas currently serves on the National Academy’s Computer Science and Telecommunications Board. She is a fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery, a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
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