Lifetime Achievement Awards | 2017

Richard C. Holt

University of Waterloo, University of Toronto

Richard C. Holt

Richard C. “Ric” Holt has been a pioneering member of the Computer Science academic community since his arrival at the University of Toronto as a new assistant professor in 1970, and continuing on at the University of Waterloo starting in 1997. He has made a number of seminal contributions in a variety of areas of Computer Systems research, including:

  • Operating Systems: formalizing the notion of deadlock; the design of the SUE, Tunis, Secure Tunis, and HECTOR operating systems.
  • Programming Languages, Compilers, and Computer Science Education: the design and implementation of the SP/k, Concurrent Euclid, Turing, TuringPlus, and OOT programming languages, which were very widely used in universities and high schools in Canada and internationally, starting in the 1980s.
  • Software Architecture Modelling: the design and implementation of the PBS/SWAG-kit toolsets for software architecture extraction, analysis, and visualization, the GROK relational algebra engine, and the GXL software exchange format for tool interoperability; major case studies on the architectures of Linux, Mozilla, Apache, and many others large open-source systems.
  • Software Analytics: co-founding the research field of software analytics and mining software repositories and co-founding its key conference (the IEEE International Working Conference on Mining Software Repositories, CORE: A); contributing influential early work on a number of problems, including defect prediction, natural language topic modelling of development artifacts, and empirical software process extraction.

Over the years, Ric has also supervised the PhDs of many students who have gone on to become leading academic figures, including Dave Barnard (President of the University of Manitoba, former President of the University of Regina), Jim Cordy (ACM Distinguished Scientist, former Director of the Computer Science Department at Queen’s University), Spiros Mancoridis (Distinguished Professor, former Head, and Acting Dean of Computer Science at Drexel University), Ahmed Hassan (NSERC Canada Research Chair at Queen’s University), Mike Godfrey (Cheriton Faculty Fellow and former NSERC-IRC Associate Chair, University of Waterloo), Bil Tzerpos (York University), Abram Hindle (2017 CS-CAN/INFO-CAN Outstanding Young CS Researcher, University of Alberta), and Sarah Nadi (University of Alberta).

Ric has been a co-author of dozens of highly-cited journal and conference publications, many of which have been very influential; for example, his 1972 paper on properties of deadlock is commonly referenced in operating systems textbooks, and his 1998 paper on Tarski relational algebra to model software architecture won a Most Influential Paper award. Google Scholar shows he has 20 papers with more than 100 citations each. In addition to his academic publishing record, Ric is also the co-author of 16 books on programming, operating systems, and computer science education.

Finally, it should be pointed out that throughout Ric’s career, he has managed to keep close contact with industry, forming close relationships with companies such as IBM Canada, Nortel Networks, Sun Microsystems, and CA Technologies. Through a long stream of industry collaborations, his students have been exposed to the problems of real-world software development, and in turn the ideas of his research group have impacted on the practices and products of these companies. Ric served as chair of the Nortel Networks Institute at the University of Waterloo, and held an NSERC Industrial Research Chair sponsored by Nortel Networks. In addition to all this, he ran his own software company for many years, Holt Software Associates, to support the using of the Turing programming language in high schools and universities.

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