Dr. Nancy Amato, Unocal Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at Texas A&M University, has been chosen to receive the 2013 Betty M. Unterberger Award by Honors and Undergraduate Research in recognition of her exemplary record of commitment to Honors education and Undergraduate Research.
Dr. Sumana Datta, executive director of Honors and Undergraduate Research, said that Amato's commitment has been "demonstrated by her contributions to the Undergraduate Research Scholars Program, oversight of a summer REU (Research Experiences for Undergraduates) program, review of Explorations proposals and articles and service to the Honors and Undergraduate Research advisory committee among other contributions."
Amato's "contributions to the Undergraduate Research Scholars program as both faculty mentor and advisory committee member have allowed our program to successfully transition through some difficult situations this year. (Her) support of summer REUs and Explorations has made a dramatic impact on our community," Datta said.
Amato is co-director of the Parasol Lab, deputy director of the Institute for Applied Math and Computational Science (IAMCS), associate director of the Center for Large-Scale Scientific Simulations (CLASS), and chair of the university-level Alliance for Bioinformatics, Computational Biology and Systems Biology at Texas A&M.
Of Amato's award Dr. Duncan M. Walker, computer science and engineering department head, said, "Her record is exemplified by her work with Kensen Shi," a high school student invited by Amato to join Parasol Lab during Shi's quest to find a Texas A&M computer science faculty mentor for his research. Shi who won first place and a $100,000 scholarship in the 2012 Siemens Competition in Science, Math and Technology.
Amato has personally mentored nearly 100 undergraduates in academic and summer research in her 18 years at Texas A&M, and has directed or co-directed the CRA-W/CDC Distributed Research Experiences for Undergraduates (DREU, formally known as the DMP) for more than 10 years. DREU is a national program that matches undergraduate women and students from underrepresented groups, including ethnic minorities and persons with disabilities, with a faculty mentor for a summer research experience at the faculty member's home institution. The program's objective is to increase the number of students from these groups entering graduate studies in computer science and engineering. A recent comparative evaluation shows that participants in the DREU program are twice as likely as participants in other REU programs to enter graduate studies immediately after graduation and also to be enrolled in Ph.D. programs in computing. Since 1994 more than 700 students from more than 300 institutions have done research with mentors at more than 100 research universities.
Amato received undergraduate degrees in mathematical sciences and economics from Stanford University, and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in computer science from the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She was an AT&T Bell Laboratories Ph.D. scholar and a recipient of a CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation. She is an IEEE Fellow and was a distinguished lecturer for the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society (2006-2007). She also serves as a Distinguished Speaker for the ACM Distinguished Speakers Program.
Her main areas of research focus are motion planning and robotics, computational biology and geometry, and parallel and distributed computing. Current representative projects include the development of a new technique for modeling molecular motions (such as protein folding), investigation of new strategies for crowd control and simulation, and STAPL, a parallel C++ library enabling the development of efficient, portable parallel programs.