Computer Scientist Anita Jones Receives Philip Hauge Abelson Award from AAAS

Anita Jones headshot

Anita Jones, University Professor Emerita of Computer Science at U.Va.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science has chosen Anita Jones, University Professor Emerita of Computer Science at the University of Virginia, to receive its highest honor, the 2012 Philip Hauge Abelson Award.

A specialist in computer security systems, Jones will receive the award Friday at a ceremony and reception during the association’s 179th annual meeting in Boston. AAAS is the world’s largest general scientific society and publisher of the esteemed journal Science. The Abelson Award, established in 1985, consists of a commemorative medallion and a $5,000 honorarium.

Jones is being honored for her scientific and technical achievements in computer science; her contributions as a mentor, inspiration and role model for other scientists and engineers; and her lifetime of public service to government, professional institutions, academia and industry, according to the society’s announcement.

The Abelson Award, named for the late Philip Hauge Abelson, longtime senior adviser to AAAS and editor of Science, is given annually to either a public servant, in recognition of sustained exceptional contributions to advancing science, or to a scientist whose career has been distinguished both for scientific achievement and for other notable services to the scientific community.

Previous winners include physician/geneticist (and U.Va. alumnus) Francis Collins, leader of the Human Genome Project, and Charles Marstiller Vest, former president of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, among other distinguished leaders in science and technology.

“Anita Jones is a wonderful role model for women and men in technology and science, and I congratulate her on this extraordinary award,” U.Va. President Teresa A. Sullivan said. “U.Va. has worked hard over the last decade to increase female representation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics through outreach, mentoring efforts and expanded support for graduate students. Anita’s well-deserved successes serve as an inspiration to redouble these important efforts.”

A member of the National Academy of Engineering, Jones received her Ph.D. in computer science from Carnegie-Mellon University in 1973. After 10 years there as an associate professor, she co-founded the software firm Tartan Laboratories, where she served as vice president until 1987. The following year, she became a full professor and chair of the computer science department in U.Va.’s School of Engineering and Applied Science.

In 1993, Jones took leave to become director of defense research and engineering at the Department of Defense, where she had oversight responsibility for science and technology programs, research laboratories and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. She held that position until 1997 and received awards for distinguished public service.

Jones returned to U.Va. in 1997 as University Professor and assumed the role of Lawrence A. Quarles Professor of Engineering and Applied Science in 1999. She chaired U.Va.’s Virginia 2020 Science and Technology Planning Commission, which developed a series of initiatives to guide U.Va.’s research enterprise through the first two decades of the 21st century.

“Anita has had a major impact in a broad area including academe, industry and government,” said James H. Aylor, dean of the Engineering School. “More importantly, she has been a positive influence on many lives and has been a role model for all of us through her positive, can-do attitude, her dedication to the education of future scientists and engineers and her selfless approach to creating a better world.”

Jones has served on the National Science Board, the Department of Defense Science Board, the U.S. Air Force Scientific Advisory Board and the National Academies’ Policy Division Advisory Council, among other groups. Her service roles have included work on the influential National Academies report, “Rising Above the Gathering Storm,” and a follow-up study that helped raise awareness about the importance of investing in the nation’s innovation infrastructure.

According to Stephen D. Nelson, the AAAS staff officer in charge of administering the Abelson Award, Jones’ accomplishments as a computer scientist are enhanced by her “stellar performance in a wide range of public service roles, and through her service in senior advisory capacities to academic and business institutions.”

Former Abelson Award honoree Norman R. Augustine, retired chairman and CEO of Lockheed Martin Corporation, noted: “Anita’s success, in my opinion, is founded in part upon her deep technical knowledge, backed by her ability to apply that knowledge in a wide variety of fields. She is as comfortable discussing the latest developments in informatics as she is speaking with White House budget officials, and frequently does both. Her constructive, selfless approach to solving problems, coupled with her impeccable integrity, gives her credibility even with those who may disagree with her.”

Jones’ honors, awards and distinctions include the National Academy of Engineering’s Arthur M. Bueche Award, the Department of Defense Award for Distinguished Public Service, a Meritorious Civilian Award from the U.S. Air Force, and the IEEE Founders Medal. She is a member of the National Academy of Science and a fellow of AAAS as well as the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Association of Computing Machinery and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

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