Established in 2007, the Fran Allen Ph.D. Fellowship Award is awarded to a female Ph.D. research student based on her outstanding technical accomplishments and commitment to mentoring and community-building.
The 2009 winner is Aruna Balakrishnan (link resides outside of ibm.com) of Carnegie Mellon University. Aruna is a Ph.D. student at Carnegie Mellon's Human-Computer Interaction Institute.
In this year's selection process, Aruna stood out from the crowd of strong technical recipients for this IBM Ph.D. Fellowship through her research work in information visualization, computer supported collaborative work, and decision sciences. Aruna studies the impact of different kinds of visualization on the effectiveness of information sharing and problem solving in virtual collaborations. She also studies the role of imagery to influence risk perceptions, and on persuasive technologies to influence consumer choices to support environmental sustainability.
Aruna also stood out because of her history of mentoring activities. She served as the Graduate Mentor Program Coordinator for the Women@SCS group, organizing panel discussions on issues of concern and regular tea socials geared toward informal networking and peer mentoring at Carnegie Mellon's School of Computer Science (SCS).
"I was suprised to receive the Fran Allen award. When I started the graduate student women mentorship network, the only reward I was thinking of was creating a stronger network for the Women in SCS," said Aruna. "This really is a fantastic opportunity for all women in SCS to receive more opportunities, whether they be for conference attendance or for meeting new friends."
Previously, she was the Director of a curriculum-based mentorship program to provide underprivileged junior high school girls with the resources and support necessary to make informed decisions about their lives.
"It is easy to feel isolated in a field dominated by men or even by more mainstream branches of research," continues Aruna. "This award definitely helps give me a sense of belonging in the research community. It bolsters my vision of what the future of computer science can be."
According to Maria R. Ebling, Ph.D., IBM Research Senior Manager for Responsive Enterprise Solutions:
"These mentoring activities, when combined with her strong technical background, exhibit the spirit of Fran Allen and made her the unanimous choice of the selection committee."
About the award
The Fran Allen Ph.D. Fellowship Award was created in 2007 and honors Fran Allen, a pioneer in computer science. In February of that year, Allen was named the recipient of the 2006 A.M. Turing Award for contributions that fundamentally improved the performance of computer programs in solving problems, and accelerated the use of high performance computing. The award marked the first time that a woman had received the honor.
The award program is an intensely competitive program with a $30,000 grant included to encourage participation of women in engineering and computer science.
Each year, the winner is also assigned a "career mentor" from IBM Research who will also visit and speak at the student's campus. The student will be invited to present their research at an IBM Research site, and to interact with researchers in their chosen discipline.
Previous winners of this award include:
"We continue honor Fran's legacy with outstanding Ph.D. students," says Cathy Lasser, Vice President and CTO Global Distribution Sector, IBM Sales and Distribution. "The selection of Aruna continues the line of outstanding technical women that also have a passion to help and mentor others. It is always inspiring to meet the fellowship winners and see their future potential."
Meet Fran Allen: The woman behind the award
Fran Allen joined IBM Research in 1957 and was the first woman to be named IBM fellow - IBM's highest technical honor.
In February 2007, Fran Allen was named the recipient of the 2006 A.M. Turing Award for contributions that fundamentally improved the performance of computer programs in solving problems, and accelerated the use of high performance computing. The award marked the first time that a woman had received the honor.
You can get better acquainted with Fran Allen here: