Hwu wins 2014 B. Ramakrishna Rau Award

ECE News

Meg Dickinson, ECE ILLINOIS

Story Highlights

  • Professor Wen-mei Hwu has won the 2014 B. Ramakrishna Rau Award from the IEEE Computer Society.
  • The award recognizes significant accomplishments in the field of microarchitecture and compiler code generation.
  • The award is named for B. Ramakrishna Rau, who was an ECE ILLINOIS faculty member from 1978-81, and with whom Hwu advised six graduate students.

Professor Wen-Mei W Hwu has won the 2014 B. Ramakrishna Rau Award from the IEEE Computer Society.

The award recognizes significant accomplishments in the field of microarchitecture and compiler code generation.

Wen-Mei W. Hwu
Wen-Mei W. Hwu
It’s named for the late Rau, who went by the first name Bob, a former ECE ILLINOIS faculty member and a giant in the fields of computer architecture and microarchitecture.

Hwu, the AMD Jerry Sanders Chair of Electrical and Computer Engineering, was recognized "for contributions to Instruction Level Parallelism technology, including compiler optimization, program representation, microarchitecture, and applications." He will accept the award in December in the United Kingdom.

Of all the awards he’s won, Hwu said this one is particularly special because of his work with Rau, and Rau’s legacy.

“It means I’m now associated with the name of someone who had true humanity,” Hwu said. “Bob brought true humanity to our field.”

Rau worked as a faculty member at ECE ILLINOIS from 1978-1981, and co-founded of Cydrome, Inc., which developed one of the first VLIW mini-supercomputers. At the time of his death in 2002, he was a senior research scientist at HP Labs. The Bob Rau Award was established in 2011.

Hwu met Rau in the late 1980s, when Rau was visiting Illinois as an adjunct professor. They started collaborating, co-authoring papers together, and co-advising students. They worked together for more than 10 years. Hwu called these the formative years of his career.

“He taught me a lot of the intricacies of research,” Hwu said, things he couldn’t learn from the literature at that time. “But more importantly, I learned from him about how we should treat people and how we should treat people's work, to put trust and faith in others' research.”

Rau was a role model for Hwu when it came to advising and mentoring graduate students.

Together, Rau and Hwu advised six notable PhD students: Scott Mahlke (BSCompE '88, MSEE '91, PhD '97), a professor at the University of Michigan; Dave August (MSEE '96, PhD '00), a professor at Princeton; Nancy Warter-Perez (MSEE '90, PhD '93), a professor at California State University, Los Angeles; Rick Hank (BSCompE '90, MSEE '93, PhD '96), at Google; John Gyllenhaal (MSEE '94, PhD '97) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory; and Dan Connors (MSEE '97, PhD '00), a professor at the University of Colorado Denver.

“I learned early on from Bob about how you can inspire students to own their research, to jump from a good student to a great researcher,” Hwu said.

Rau was always collegial, Hwu said, a real gentleman who respected others. Hwu remembers one meeting during which attendees were arguing about whether someone’s research concept would work.

“Bob stood up and said, ‘When we judge whether research is going to work or not work, we shouldn’t make a conclusion until the proponents of the research tell us they cannot make it work,'” Hwu said. “He believed the people passionate enough to base a lifetime of work on specific research should make that judgment.”

Shortly before his death, Rau won the ACM/IEEE Eckert–Mauchly Award for his seminal contributions to the field of computer architecture, and Hwu said his legacy joins that of many others who have contributed to excellence in computer engineering at Illinois.

“These are the people who've made that impact, who are our role models,” Hwu said. “So many extraordinary people have come from Illinois.”

Yale Patt, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at The University of Texas at Austin, was the inaugural winner of the B. Ramakrishna Rau Award. He was Hwu’s doctoral adviser.

“Wen-mei's selection for this award will surprise no one,” Patt said. “He has been a strong leader in the field for decades.”

Patt said the award is specifically meant to honor contributions in microarchitecture or compiler technology.

“Wen-mei is somewhat unique in that he, more than anyone else I know, is a superstar in both,” Patt said. “As a graduate student at Berkeley in the mid-1980s, he was one of the four people responsible for HPS, the microarchitecture that literally transformed the way the industry designs microprocessors.”

As a young assistant professor at Illinois, Hwu went on to build IMPACT, a group of PhD students who quickly moved into and stayed at the forefront of compiler technology for decades.

“Wen-mei has not only produced outstanding research, but also has produced what I think is even more important: outstanding graduates,” Patt said.

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