December 12, 2011

Alexander Szalay wins Microsoft’s Jim Gray eScience Award

Johns Hopkins astrophysicist and computer scientist Alexander Szalay, a national leader in advancing understanding of the role of computing in discovery across a wide range of scientific disciplines, has been recognized by the Microsoft Corp. with a Jim Gray eScience Award.

Szalay, the Alumni Centennial Professor in the Henry A. Rowland Department of Physics and Astronomy, and director of the university’s Institute for Data Intensive Engineering and Science, received the award during Microsoft’s annual eScience Workshop, held last week in Stockholm.

Established in 2008 as a tribute to the late Jim Gray, a technical fellow for Microsoft Research who disappeared at sea in 2007, the award recognizes a researcher who has made outstanding contributions to the field of data-intensive computing.

Szalay worked with Gray on a number of projects, including the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, an international collaboration of more than 100 scientists and engineers that aims to map one-quarter of the sky to create a systematic, three-dimensional picture of the universe.

“Jim and I had an amazing journey in collaborating on Big Data and how it is revolutionizing the way we do science. We talked on the phone several times every day, and we wrote tens of thousands of lines of code together. Jim Gray was a very special person, and the award has a special significance for me,” Szalay said.

Microsoft honored Szalay with a technical computing award for his contributions to eScience in 2007, before the award was named for Gray. He will now officially be honored as a Jim Gray Award recipient, along with the 2011 award winner, Mark Abbott, dean of Oregon State University’s College of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences.

“Alex’s groundbreaking partnership with Jim Gray set the stage for the advancement of the field of eScience across a range of scientific domains,” according to Harold Javid, director of Regional Programs at Microsoft Research Connections. “He was chosen as a Jim Gray eScience Award winner for his foundational contributions to interdisciplinary advances in the field of astronomy.”