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Database architect wins IEEE award

July 30, 2009 By Chris Barncard

David DeWitt, professor emeritus of computer science, has been honored for his work with database systems.

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers named DeWitt the recipient of the 2009 Emanuel R. Piore Award this month, citing DeWitt’s leading role in the development of database architecture and in building one of the world’s foremost academic database research groups.

IEEE credits DeWitt’s work on organizing and querying parallel databases — stores of information so vast they must be spread out over many computers — as the basis for almost all parallel systems in use today.

“You’re forced to figure out how to make several computers to answer questions about that data,” DeWitt says. “And you need a mechanism for breaking down that question so that those 100 computers can all contribute to the answer.”

DeWitt, 61, was a member of the UW–Madison faculty for 32 years before retiring in 2008. He moved on to head Microsoft’s Jim Gray Systems Lab in Madison, which works in close cooperation with UW–Madison computer science faculty and supports the research being done by a number of the department’s graduate students.

“Even though it’s a field we’ve worked on for many years, there are lots of new innovations and ideas to explore,” DeWitt says.

The Emanuel R. Piore Award, established in 1976, is named for a UW–Madison graduate. Piore, who died in 2000, earned his undergraduate and doctorate degrees in physics at the university, and eventually served as the first director of research at IBM and the company’s chief scientist.

DeWitt received the award July 28 at the IEEE Design Automation Conference in San Francisco.