Michael Abebe receives Cheriton Distinguished Dissertation Award

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Recent PhD graduate Michael Abebe has received the 2023 Cheriton Distinguished Dissertation Award. Now in its fifth year, the award was established to recognize excellence in computer science doctoral research. In addition to the recognition, recipients receive a cash prize of $1,000.

Michael was supervised by Computer Science Professor Khuzaima Daudjee. His thesis, which he defended in August 2022, is titled “Adaptive Data Storage and Placement in Distributed Database Systems,” and focused on building data systems that make intelligent and dynamic physical design decisions to improve performance.

Michael is no stranger to recognition of scholarly excellence. In 2018, he was one of six recipients globally and the only recipient from Canada to receive a Facebook Emerging Scholar Award, a scholarship that supports individuals in the technology sector to encourage them to pursue innovative research and engage with the broader research community. He also held an NSERC Alexander Graham Bell Canada Graduate Scholarship, which provides support to high-calibre scholars in a doctoral program, as well as a Cheriton Graduate Scholarship, which recognizes excellence at the School of Computer Science.

photo of Khuzaima Daudjee and Michael Abebe

Left to right: Professor Khuzaima Daudjee and recent PhD graduate Michael Abebe

Michael’s research interests lie at the intersection of distributed systems, databases, and machine learning. He is particularly interested in building adaptive and distributed data systems. After graduating last fall, Michael joined Salesforce, a cloud-based software company, as a researcher and senior member of its technical staff. 

About Michael’s PhD research

Distributed database systems are used widely to provide scalable storage, and to update and query facilities for application data. Although a distributed system generally chooses a static distribution of its data partitions, such static physical designs fall short in delivering good performance when faced with hotspots or changes in the workload. An imbalanced load on a distributed system can result in performance degradation. Moreover, updates to partitioned and replicated data can require expensive distributed coordination to ensure that they are applied atomically and consistently.

Michael’s doctoral research addressed these shortcomings by developing distributed systems that make decisions automatically on how to partition data, what to replicate, and where to place these data. The systems he developed leverage data access patterns to determine the best storage layout and workload execution strategies, adjusting their physical design dynamically over time. 

“Building systems is a daunting task,” said Professor Khuzaima Daudjee. “Michael met this challenge with an outstanding set of systems research contributions.”

Michael is the sixth doctoral graduate to receive a Cheriton Distinguished Dissertation Award, following Akshay Ramachandran (2022), Mike Schaekermann (2021, tie), Hong Zhou (2021, tie), Fiodar Kazhamiaka (2020) and Md Faizul Bari (2019).

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