ABIE Award Winners

Deborah Estrin

2007 Winner of the ABIE Award for Innovation

Deborah Estrin is the 2007 Women of Vision Award Winner for Innovation. While many tout the value of multidisciplinary research in the sciences, Deborah has put this into practice as the founding director of the Center for Embedded Networked Sensing (CENS), a $40 million NSF Science and Technology Center at UCLA. CENS is a major research enterprise developing wireless sensor systems and applying this revolutionary technology to radically transform critical scientific and societal applications. The Center promises to impact the field in lasting ways by opening up an entirely new set of scientific applications where previously most of the “applications” of sensor networks focused on the military. Under Deborah’ s leadership, CENS truly exemplifies the best of what multidisciplinary and multi-institutional research can be.

In addition to her hands-on leadership of CENS, Deborah is a Professor of Computer Science with a joint appointment in Electrical Engineering at UCLA and holds the Jon Postel Chair in Computer Networks. Deborah is an exceptional leader, not just of students and colleagues, but also of communities. Deborah was among the first researchers who articulated the vision and potential of sensor networking and then rallied the community and funding agencies in support of it. Her work has contributed to the definition of the entire research programs at DARPA (SenseIT, NEST) and NSF (Nets-NOSS), and to the design of numerous technical workshops and conferences. Most recently, she played a significant role in transferring this technology to the scientific community through the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) project.

In 2001 she led a study that contributed to the definition of the research agenda for embedded sensor networks by editing the NRC Embedded Everywhere report; in 2002 she founded the ACM Symposium on Sensor Systems (SenSys), which has become the most prestigious and selective conference in the field. More recently, Deborah’s research has expanded to include participatory-sensing systems, based on automated, programmable, and adaptive collection of environmental, physiological, and social parameters at the personal and community level. These systems will leverage the installed base of image and acoustic sensors that we all carry around in our pockets—cell phones. Like sensor networks did for the environment, this field of urban sensing has the potential to fundamentally change the way every day people collect and utilize information about their every day lives.

Deborah is a role model and advocate for women in science and engineering. As a graduate student at MIT, she co-authored a 1983 study of barriers to equality for women in computer science in academia. Deborah remains extensively involved in activities that promote the advancement of women in computer science and engineering, for example, overseeing Women@CENS, a project designed to study and implement programs that support women.

In 2003, Deborah was named one of Popular Science’ s “Brilliant 10” for her research in embedded sensor networks and its applications in environmental monitoring. In 2005, Deborah presented her work in embedded networked sensors to an international audience at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland—the foremost global community of business, political, intellectual and other leaders of society committed to improving the state of the world. Deborah was selected as the 2006-2007 ACM-W Athena Lecturer, celebrating her fundamental contributions to computer science. Deborah was also recognized with a California State Resolution for her contributions to research serving the state.

Even with her tremendous accomplishments, she continues to be accessible to and supportive of students, emerging scholars, and colleagues in academia, industry, and government. Deborah received her Ph.D. in Computer Science from MIT, and her BS from U.C. Berkeley. Before joining UCLA, she was a member of the University of Southern California, Computer Science Department.

Deborah’s research has always been on the cutting edge of technological innovation. In 1987, she received the NSF’ s Presidential Young Investigator Award for research in network interconnection and security. Her lifelong contributions to technology innovation, her influence in enabling positive social change, and her leadership and inspiration in the field of computer science and beyond make her a true Woman of Vision.