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Jack Dongarra

UT’s Dongarra Receives Prestigious ACM A. M. Turing Award

Jack Dongarra, Distinguished Professor of Computer Science in the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Tickle College of Engineering and Distinguished Research Staff Member at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, will receive the 2021 A. M. Turing Award from the Association of Computing Machinery. Dongarra, an innovator in computational software, is being honored for his pioneering contributions which have helped pave the way for high-performance computing’s evolution over the past 40 years.

The award, often referred to as the Nobel Prize of computing, is named for Alan M. Turing, the British mathematician who described the mathematical foundation and limits of computing. Along with the recognition, the award carries a $1 million prize, with financial support provided by Google Inc.

“This an overwhelming and humbling recognition, and I am honored to have been chosen for it,” Dongarra said. “I have been privileged to take part in research and developments that have helped design the libraries and software that have allowed for the advancements that we’ve made in computing, but to be chosen for this award is truly not something I ever expected. I must give credit to the generations of colleagues, students, and staff whose work and ideas influenced me over the years. I hope I can live up to all the greatness that the Turing Award has recognized and become a role model, as many of the recipients have been, to the next generation of computer scientists.”

“For four decades, Jack Dongarra has made instrumental contributions to the ever-evolving field of high-performance computing, impacting the integral work of generations of scientists and engineers,” said UT Chancellor Donde Plowman. “This incredibly prestigious award is a reflection of the importance of his work and of the courage and ingenuity he has demonstrated throughout his career to positively impact our world. We are proud to call him a Volunteer and congratulate him for this honor.”

Dongarra came to UT in 1989, when he founded the Innovative Computing Laboratory in what is now the Min H. Kao Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. Through the ICL, he made vital contributions to a series of computing-related software systems and libraries, all of which helped bring about the supercomputing era and established the foundation for future generations of machines. Dongarra developed software packages that became the industry standard, allowing high-performance computers to become increasingly more powerful in recent decades.

“We are proud that Jack has called UT and our college home for more than 30 years, and we are excited to see his career recognized with such a prominent award,” said Matthew Mench, dean and Wayne T. Davis Dean’s Chair of the Tickle College of Engineering. “The work he has done has advanced computing immeasurably and serves as inspiration to everyone in his field.”

Advances in high-performance computing created a framework from which scientists and engineers have made important discoveries and innovations in areas including big data analytics, health care, renewable energy, weather prediction, genomics, and economics, to name a few. Those advances have spilled over into other areas of computing and helped foster the recent revolutions in artificial intelligence and computer graphics.

Dongarra has been named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and the Association for Computing Machinery as well as a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a Foreign Fellow of the Royal Society. He has served as a Turing Fellow with the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom since 2007 and is a leader of the annual TOP500 effort to rank the world’s most powerful supercomputer.

Dongarra earned his bachelor’s in mathematics from Chicago State University in 1972, his master’s in computer science from the Illinois Institute of Technology in 1973, and his doctorate in applied mathematics from the University of New Mexico in 1980. He began working at Argonne National Laboratory while still an undergraduate and continued to work there until leaving as a senior scientist in 1989.

“I have had the privilege to call Jack a colleague for more than 30 years, and he is truly deserving of this prestigious award,” said ORNL Director Thomas Zacharia. “His extraordinary contributions to computing have allowed for new discoveries and groundbreaking achievements across science, technology, innovation, and more—advancements that would have been unimaginable when Jack started his career.”

Dongarra will receive the Turing Award June 11 at the ACM Awards Banquet in San Francisco.

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