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ACM and IEEE honor Margaret Martonosi with prestigious computer architecture award

by Rina Diane Caballar
The Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and the IEEE Computer Society (CS) have awarded Margaret Martonosi, Hugh Trumbull Adams '35 Professor of Computer Science at Princeton University, the 2021 Eckert-Mauchly Award for her contributions to the design, modeling, and verification of power-efficient computer architecture.
The Eckert-Mauchly Award honors Martonosi’s work, in collaboration with her student advisees and other co-authors, in the following areas:
  • Power-aware microarchitectures
    Martonosi and her group developed Wattch, a widely-used architectural simulator that estimates CPU power consumption, and demonstrated the value of early-stage power estimation. Building from Wattch, her group also explored a range of techniques for improving the power-efficiency of computer systems.
  • ​Mobile sensing
    Moving beyond conventional computers, Martonosi helped launch the subfield of mobile sensing through her work on the Princeton ZebraNet mobile sensor network project for the design and real-world deployment of zebra tracking collars in Kenya. This work demonstrated that sparsely deployed mobile sensors can offer high data delivery rates and sensor coverage over large areas at practical power budgets, providing biologists with never-before-seen animal behavior data.
  • Concurrency verification 
    Most recently, Martonosi and her collaborators developed the Check suite of verification tools.  As power-efficiency challenges push computer architectures towards increased use of heterogeneous and specialized parallelism, the Check tools help designers by offering early-stage, automatic tools for checking the correctness and security of systems relative to key aspects of concurrent data accesses.

“I am proud of the times our work found important opportunities for computer architects to contribute to overall systems design challenges like power efficiency or verification,” Martonosi said. “When we started working on power efficiency, those issues were typically handled much later in the design process and much lower in the technology stack by circuit designers, for example. Our work advocated for power issues to be handled by architects earlier in the design process, where there were better opportunities to identify high-leverage solutions and the time to act on them. Our more recent work takes a similar approach to early-stage concurrency verification.”

Martonosi has long been interested in computer architecture. “When I first started programming, I was curious to learn more about how computers really worked and how they executed the programs I wrote under the covers,” she said. This passion lives on in her current research, which focuses on hardware-software interface issues in both classical and quantum computing systems.

“Now, I still love how computer architecture sits at the hardware-software interface and is a mediator between different technology and application trends,” said Martonosi. “I love puzzling through interesting problems and finding solutions that hit that sweet spot between power and performance effectiveness at reasonable design complexity.”

Martonosi credits her peers as playing a significant role in her work. “My students and other collaborators are the best part of any research project,” she said. “It is a really fun and creative endeavor when you get people in a discussion tossing around ideas and considering the pros and cons of different options.”

Looking to the future, Martonosi hopes to continue showing the benefits and opportunities that the field of computer architecture can offer. “I believe passionately in the potential of computer systems research and computer science overall to improve human lives and have direct and visible societal benefits,” she said.

Widely regarded as the most prestigious award in computer architecture, the Eckert-Mauchly Award is given to individuals for their outstanding contributions to the field of computer and digital systems architecture. The award was launched in 1979 and was named after John Presper Eckert and John William Mauchly, designers of the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC), the world’s first general-purpose digital computer.

The Eckert-Mauchly Award is co-sponsored by ACM and IEEE CS and comes with a certificate and a $5,000 honorarium. Martonosi will formally receive the award during this year’s ACM/IEEE International Symposium on Computer Architecture (ISCA) to be held virtually on June 14 to 19.

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