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Holger Hoos appointed ACM Fellow

On 13 January 2020, the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) has named 95 members ACM Fellows who have demonstrated excellence across many disciplines of computing. Among the new ACM Fellows is Professor Holger Hoos of the Leiden Institute of Advanced Computer Science, who was specifically selected for his contributions to automated algorithm selection and configuration for optimisation and machine learning: techniques that have had transformative impact in artificial intelligence and beyond. He is only the third recipient in the Netherlands in the history of this prestigious award, after Andy Tanenbaum at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and Martin Kersten at CWI, both of whom are now retired.

Fundamental contributions

The ACM Fellows program was established in 1993 to recognise the top 1% of ACM Members for wide-ranging and fundamental contributions in areas including artificial intelligence, cloud computing, computer graphics, computational biology, data science, human-computer interaction, software engineering, theoretical computer science, and virtual reality, among other areas. The award is widely regarded as one of the highest honours given to computer scientists worldwide. Fellows are chosen by their peers and hail from leading universities, corporations and research labs throughout the world. Their inspiration, insights and dedication bring immeasurable benefits that improve lives and help drive the global economy. 

Holger Hoos

Dream come true

Naturally, Hoos was overjoyed to receive the award: ‘This is a dream come true. In fact, if anyone had told me 25 years ago, when I was about to start my PhD research, that one day I would become an ACM Fellow, I would have said “yeah, in my dreams”. Of course, this kind of distinction really recognises much more than a single researcher. In my case, I feel very privileged and extremely grateful to all my mentors, students, close colleagues and academic friends with whom I had the pleasure to work over the span of my career - it is hard to overstate how much of this recognition is really due to their influence. I’ve also been very fortunate to work within two outstanding academic environments over the last 25 years - first, at the University of British Columbia (Canada), and then here at Leiden University. The support I’ve experienced in both places has critically enabled my work.’ 

Nominations from around the world

‘This year our task in selecting the 2020 Fellows was a little more challenging, as we had a record number of nominations from around the world,’ explained ACM President Gabriele Kotsis. ‘The 2020 ACM Fellows have demonstrated excellence across many disciplines of computing. These men and women have made pivotal contributions to technologies that are transforming whole industries, as well as our personal lives. We fully expect that these new ACM Fellows will continue in the vanguard in their respective fields.’  

Shaping the future

While many computer scientists see an ACM Fellowship as a career-crowning achievement, Hoos feels there is more to be done. ‘In all likelihood, that’s the biggest award I’ll ever get, but winning this kind of recognition has never been my main motivation. I feel like I have ideas and energy for at least another 15 very productive years, and I hope that at least some of these ideas will ultimately help to make the world a better place.’ Asked whether computer scientists like him are well positioned for this kind of impact, he adds: ‘Absolutely. Computer science, and especially the area of artificial intelligence in which I work, have a big role to play in helping us shape our future and solve some of the problems we are facing, including climate change and health crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, we are at the beginning of a fundamental change in the way we approach all science, engineering and many other endeavours. There has never been a better time for computer scientists to make major contributions to the common good.’  

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