Professor Jo Atlee receives the 2023 Lifetime Achievement Award in Computer Science

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Cheriton School of Computer Science Professor Jo Atlee has been named a recipient of the 2023 CS-Can | Info-Can’s Lifetime Achievement Award in Computer Science.

CS-Can | Info-Can is a non-profit professional society dedicated to representing all aspects of computer science and the interests of the discipline across Canada. Over the past decade, their Lifetime Achievement Awards recognize current or former faculty members of Canadian universities who have made outstanding and sustained contributions to computer science research, teaching, and service.

“Congratulations to Jo Atlee on receiving such a recognition,” said Raouf Boutaba, University Professor and Director of the Cheriton School of Computer Science. “This honour is greatly deserved as Jo is an internationally renowned researcher in software engineering. She is also recognized nationally as a leading advocate for opportunities for women in computer science. Several of our Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) initiatives, such as the Women in Computer Science (WiCS), have flourished because of her persistence and willingness to push limits.”

photo of Professor Jo Atlee in the Davis Centre

Professor Jo Atlee has received the 2023 Lifetime Achievement Award in Computer Science, recognizing her contributions to research, education, and advocacy.

The 2023 awards will be presented on November 11, 2024, at the CS-Can|Info-Can Annual Awards Gala, as part of the group’s conference, which is held at York University this year.

“I am deeply honoured to receive this award. I have been fortunate at Waterloo to have the opportunity and freedom to pivot between leadership roles in research, education, and service and then return to the role of 'plain old professor.' I have enjoyed all these roles, but I particularly enjoy working and interacting with students. I am especially grateful to my husband, who has been an amazing supporter and cheerleader throughout my career.”

About Professor Jo Atlee

Research

Professor Atlee’s research focuses on software engineering, particularly improving software quality. She is a pioneering researcher with her thesis being the first to analyze software requirements automatically. Notably, she has led advancements in feature interactions, which refer to how independently developed software features “interact” with each other and how to detect and resolve any arising issues. Her contributions include creating mathematical languages for modelling the behaviour of software, implementing tools for automatically analyzing the correctness of those models, and demonstrating the feasibility of analyzing models of large software systems. Some prominent applications of her research include feature-rich systems, systems-of-systems, and the Internet-of-Things.

She is recognized internationally for her research contributions and expertise. She is part of the editorial boards for several top software engineering journals. Several telecommunications and automotive companies have collaborated with her, including Nortel Networks, Mitel Networks, AT&T, and General Motors Canada. Various major international conferences have invited Professor Atlee to present keynotes, such as the ACM/SIGSOFT’s Joint European Software Engineering Conference and Symposium on the Foundations of Software Engineering (2019), the ACM’s International Conference on Modularity (2015), and the IEEE’s International Requirements Engineering Conference (2011). Furthermore, she is a member and former Vice Chair of the IFIP’s Working Group 2.9 on Software Requirements Engineering, which aims to improve software quality. For over 30 years, Professor Atlee’s work has benefited various research communities and corporations.

Education

Professor Atlee has transformed the software engineering curriculum, both domestically and internationally. She is the founding director of the University of Waterloo’s Software Engineering program. This was the first software engineering program in Canada to be jointly designed and delivered by the Computer Science and Computer Engineering departments. Since 2000, the program has amassed 1,500 graduates and is one of Canada’s top software engineering programs. In addition, she was a member of the ACM Education Council and served on the ACM/IEEE joint task force, which developed the 2004 Computing Curricula guidelines for Software Engineering. She has co-authored one of the classic textbooks in software engineering: Software Engineering: Theory and Practice, which is used by students across the globe.

Advocacy

Professor Atlee is a dedicated and lifelong advocate for gender equity. She has inspired and retained countless women to study computing, who are underrepresented in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields. For example, she served as the Chair of the Women in Math Committee, which organized the Celebration of Women in Mathematics, Statistics and Computing held at the University of Waterloo in 1998. This was the first nationwide conference for women in computing and math, attracting over 150 female faculty and students from 10 provinces. In 2014, Professor Atlee chaired the University of Waterloo’s WiCS and became their director in 2015. She has spearheaded several initiatives for WiCS, such as conferences and an orientation for first-year female computer science students. Most recently, she launched a local chapter of the Technovation Challenge, which exposed young girls to STEM. Her outreach and student engagement efforts have helped boost the enrolment of women in Waterloo’s computer science programs from 16% in 2014 to 26% in 2023.

Her advocacy also includes creating platforms to empower the computer science community. Since 2015, she has co-organized annual meetings for female computer science faculty in Canada alongside the Canadian Celebration of Women in Computing (CAN-CWIC). These meetings created a rare opportunity for female faculty to network and discuss their challenges, such as the workloads of female faculty, and inclusivity practices for teaching. Outside Canada, Professor Atlee serves as the ACM SIGSOFT’s Executive Committee’s Liaison for EDI. In this role, she helped form the SIGSOFT’s Committee to Aid REporting on discrimination and haraSsment policy violations (CARES). CARES provides confidential support to people who experienced or witnessed discrimination, harassment, or other ethical policy violations at ACM’s events or publications. Overall, Professor Atlee has created spaces for computer scientists, particularly women, to express their thoughts and concerns.

Cheriton School of Computer Science Lifetime Achievement Awardees

Professor Atlee is the eleventh faculty member at the Cheriton School of Computer Science to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Past recipients are Professor Robin Cohen (2022), University Professor Ming Li (2020), Professor J. Wesley Graham (2019), University Professor Tamer Özsu (2018), Distinguished Professor Emeritus Don Cowan (2017), Professor Emeritus Ric Holt (2017), Distinguished Professor Emeritus John Brzozowski (2016), University Professor Ian Munro (2016), Distinguished Professor Emeritus Alan George (2015), and Distinguished Professor Emeritus Frank Tompa (2015).

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