Lifetime Achievement Awards | 2018

Selim G. Akl

School of Computing
Queen's University

Selim G. Akl

Dr. Selim Akl, Professor in the School of Computing at Queen’s University, is a worldwide expert in the fields of parallel computing and algorithm design. His 40+ years of research have focused on design and analysis of efficient solutions to computational problems with enormous processing time requirements. Such problems arise in many areas, including weather forecasting, drug development, and data analysis in ultra-large scale information banks. Such analysis is only feasible on parallel computers (i.e., computers with a large number of processors operating simultaneously). Dr. Akl developed algorithms that break a problem into smaller parts that are solved concurrently, thus producing results very quickly. His explorations into parallel computing and related fields, including real-time computing, optical computing, and bio-molecular computing, have produced elegant and effective solutions. Esteemed for his clarity of vision, readiness to question existing dogma, and ability to blend mathematics with diverse application areas, Dr. Akl has influenced virtually every area of the field of computing, from communications and database security to quantum and biomedical computing.

Over the past decade, Dr. Akl’s discoveries of three new computational paradigms in parallel computing are considered groundbreaking. By questioning common wisdom in parallel computation (e.g., computations with uncertain time restrictions, computations under the influence of the laws of nature, and computations subject to mathematical constraints), he has achieved surprising results, with implications that continue to be timely and important. These are significant contributions as “smart” technologies continue to influence virtually every aspect of daily life.

Dr. Akl has also been a trailblazer in the field of cryptography, producing one of the first papers on digital signatures in 1981. His subsequent solution for controlling access to data in a hierarchical organization remains the definitive solution today. In communication networks, where a primary concern is safeguarding information integrity, Dr. Akl’s research has resulted in a number of solutions that address the fundamental issue of cryptographic key distribution.

More recently, Dr. Akl began exploring new applications of the principles of computing in nature, focusing on the role it could play in solving a vast array of problems with human, scientific, and economic implications, such as disease prevention, green computing, and the production of clean energy, thereby helping maintain Canada as a world leader in this effort.

Dr. Akl’s research impact is reflected in a prodigious range of publications of substance and originality, including eight landmark books. Indeed, he has the distinction of publishing the first-ever book on parallel algorithms (1985) and the first (and to date, only) book on parallel computational geometry (1993), which continues to be considered the definitive work on the subject. He has also produced 28 book chapters, 185 papers in refereed conferences and 181 journal publications. Dr. Akl has led or assisted with over 70 computer science conferences, as a member of the program and organizing committees, reviewer, session chair and General co-Chair. In 2007, he served as General Chair of the 6th International Conference on Unconventional Computation held for the first time in the Americas. He has been on leave at the University of California Berkeley, the University of Puerto Rico, Simon Fraser University, Clarkson University, and Kent State University. He was an SRI International Fellow at Stanford Research Institute, and an NSERC Senior Industrial Research Fellow at MacDonald Dettwiler. In 1990, he held the Louis Néel Chair at the École Normale Supérieure de Lyon. He received the Queen’s University Prize for Excellence in Research in 2005.

Visionary, innovative, creative, and unfailingly curious, Dr. Akl has produced outstanding work that continues to expand the frontiers of his chosen discipline. His contributions have made, and continue to make, an impact around the world.

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