Turing Award winner Frances Allen, one of computer science's 'first women,' to speak at Virginia Tech

Frances Allen

Frances Allen

BLACKSBURG, Va., Aug. 27, 2009 – One of the most distinguished individuals of the computer science profession, Frances Allen, a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the first woman to be named an IBM Fellow, IBM's highest technical honor, will speak at Virginia Tech on Friday, Sept. 11 at 11:15 a.m. Squires Student Center in the Haymarket Theatre.

Her talk, titled “High Performance Computers and Compilers: A Personal Perspective,” will describe a related sequence of projects including some early, very bold projects that profoundly influenced the field even though some of them failed.

Allen was personally involved with a number of these projects, and her talk includes her own perspective of what worked and what did not, the historical threads of some of the ideas, and the lessons learned.

Allen was the 2006 recipient of the Association for Computing Machinery’s (ACM) Turing Award, computer science’s version of the Nobel Prize. When Allen received the award, including a cash prize of $250,000, the commendation said, “For pioneering contributions to the theory and practice of optimizing compiler techniques that laid the foundation for modern optimizing compilers and automatic parallel execution.”

The term "compiler" is used for software that translates a program written in a high-level programming language such as C or Java, into a lower-level language more easily executed by a computer. During her talk at Virginia Tech, Allen will identify some current compiler challenges and explain the need for a new focus on compiler technology.

Allen is also a member of the American Philosophical Society and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, ACM, IEEE, and the Computer History Museum. She has several honorary doctorate degrees and has served on numerous national technology boards including ones for the National Science Foundation and the National Research Council.

Allen received her bachelor’s degree in education from Albany State Teacher’s College, now known as the State University of New York at Albany, in the early 1950s. She earned a master’s degree in mathematics at the University of Michigan. She then spent a 45-year career at IBM Research, starting in 1957. She is now an IBM Fellow Emerita.

Barbara Ryder, the J. Byron Maupin Professor of Engineering and the head of the computer science department, has arranged Allen’s talk as part of Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering Department of Computer Science Distinguished Lecture Series for the 2009-10 academic year.

Allen’s talk is free and open to the public. With a visitor’s pass, parking is available in the Squires Lot, located at the corner of College Avenue and Otey Street, or the Shultz Hall Lot, located off Alumni Drive near the North Main Street campus entrance. Parking meters within the Squires Lot will need to be paid. A visitor’s pass may be obtained Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Visitor Information Center, located on Southgate Drive. Find more parking information online or call (540) 231-3200.