Canadian Association of Computer Science
Association informatique canadienne
Award for Lifetime Achievement
in Computer Science – 2015
Department of Computer Science
University of Toronto
Prof. Derek Corneil is one of those rare professors with an exceptional record in research, teaching and service. He first joined the University of Toronto as a charter member of the Department of Computer Science (DCS) graduate program in the Fall of 1964. He received his PhD from the Department in June 1968 and then joined the faculty in January 1970.
Derek Corneil is recognized as one of the world’s foremost experts in algorithmic graph theory, a mathematical field which is at the foundation of theoretical computer science, with over 100 refereed journal publications. He is also an outstanding research mentor who has supervised or co-supervised 27 Ph.D. theses, 36 M.Sc. theses, as well as 18 Postdoctoral Fellows.
Prof. Corneil has long been regarded as one of the department's best teachers at all levels of university teaching, receiving the Computer Science Student Union (CSSU) teaching award three times -- in 1989-90, 2000-01 and 2006-07.
His vision of the tremendous value computing offers to society has led him to play a key role in many educational innovations. He has been instrumental in Computer Science curriculum development for both undergraduate and graduate students. Most of his contributions were in the theoretical areas of the field as well as methodologies for teaching the "Art of Programming". Under his leadership, the Department started offering a first-year course to meet the computer literacy needs of non-CS students. Over the years, 12,000 students have taken this course, highlighting Prof. Corneil’s vision of the central role that computing plays in society. During his term as Chair, the Department also increased its presence in high schools by inviting outstanding senior high school students to the campus for an intense 2-3-week summer program of learning about exciting research going on in the Department. In the 28 years of this program, over 1000 students (and later, high school teachers as well!) have taken part.
Prof. Corneil’s impact on the Canadian Computer Science field has been phenomenal. As Department Chair, he played a key role in securing funding for and the formation of ITRC (Information Technology Research Centre). One of the goals of ITRC was to help develop the R&D capacity of local IT industry and to develop ties with local universities so that our graduates would have exciting local job opportunities instead of having to go abroad. The creation of the Toronto IBM Centre for Advanced Studies (CAS) in 1990 was the direct outcome of ITRC’s work. In 1991-98, as a UofT administrator, Corneil was instrumental in bringing the Fields Institute to the University of Toronto and in attracting Province of Ontario funding to support the Bell Canada University Labs. In 1998-99, Corneil was the founding Academic Director of the Bell University Labs in Toronto.
Beyond Ontario, from January 2005 until September 2011, he was a member (and Chair from 2009 to 2011) of the International Research Advisory Committee (IRAC) for the ICT Centre of Research Excellence (iCORE) in the Province of Alberta. He was also a cofounder of CanaDAM (the Canadian Conference on Discrete and Applied Mathematics) and served as the Chair of CanaDAM's first Executive Committee.
Prof. Corneil is a Fellow of the Fields Institute and has served as the Elected Chair of the SIAM (Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics) Discrete Mathematics Special Interest Group. During his career, he has given approximately 75 invited lectures at universities in 15 countries, and served as Editor of three journals. His efforts helped define Canadian Computer Science as a discipline and its role in the country. He is an outstanding researcher, research mentor and teacher, a gifted university administrator and a builder of research labs.