Professor Szpankowski honored with Purdue's inaugural 2015 Arden L. Bement Jr. Award

Writer(s): Phillip Fiorini

Wojciech Szpankowski, the Saul Rosen Professor of Computer Science, has been selected as the recipient of the inaugural 2015 Arden L. Bement Jr. Award. One of Purdue University's top three awards for research, the Bement award recognizes distinguished research in pure and applied science and engineering.

This award, announced Thursday (Sept. 24), recognizes Szpankowski for his outstanding contributions to the development of innovative analytic methods, leading to solutions of several open problems in analytical information theory and computer science.

"Professor Szpankowski is a visionary. He has dedicated himself to building an active and vibrant community of researchers that is pushing the boundaries of information theory," said Suresh Garimella, Purdue's executive vice president for research and partnerships and the Goodson Distinguished Professor of Mechanical Engineering, in announcing the winner. "Advanced computational techniques are needed that can make sense of the massive amount of data being generated today. Professor Szpankowski's contributions to this field not only move computing but will no doubt facilitate the creation of whole new areas of research and scholarship."

As the 2015 recipient, Szpankowski (his full name is pronounced "Voi-check Shpan-cow-vski") will deliver the inaugural Arden L. Bement Jr. Distinguished Lecture at 1:30 p.m. Nov. 9 in Stewart Center's Fowler Hall. The lecture is free and open to the public.

In 1948 Claude Shannon, known as the father of information theory, paved the way for today's Internet and mobile communications by establishing the limits of compressing, reliably storing and communicating data. Szpankowski recognized the importance of extending Shannon's theory to take into account the influence of space, time, structure, semantics and context on information.

"I am delighted that Wojciech Szpankowski has been selected as the inaugural recipient of the Bement Award," said Arden L. Bement Jr., for whom the award is named. "Professor Szpankowski is not only an exemplary scientist, he has also become the 21st century's leader in the science of information. His scholarship is the epitome of the kind of research taking place on Purdue's campus."

Szpankowski's scholarship and leadership brought the National Science Foundation's first Science and Technology Center to Indiana. The center, located in Discovery Park and known as the Purdue Center for Science of Information, brings the best minds together from across the nation to further the research generated from Shannon's theory. As director, Szpankowski is leading an interdisciplinary team to extend the classical information theory to modern settings, through knowledge discovery and information extraction from massive datasets.

"Science is fun, sometimes it is rewarding, but you do it for the joy of it," Szpankowski said. "I thank Professor Bement and Mrs. Bement for establishing the Arden L. Bement Jr. Award. It is an honor to be the first recipient of this award. I am grateful to my Purdue colleagues for recognizing my research, and I thank all of my collaborators and co-authors for letting me shine for our joint work."

Szpankowski came to Purdue in 1985. His research interests include the analysis and design of algorithms, information theory including multimedia compression, random structures, analytic combinatorics, bioinformatics, performance evaluation, networking, and stability problems in distributed systems.          

Winner of the Alexander von Humboldt Research Award in 2010, Szpankowski also is a Humboldt Fellow, Fellow of the IEEE and an Erskine Fellow at the University of Canterbury. He has served on top editorial boards and gave the Helsinki Distinguished Lecture Series on Future Information Technology in 2014.

Szpankowski has written two books. "Average Case Analysis of Algorithms on Sequences" is about generating function methodology as applied in the analysis of algorithms. His second book, co-authored with Philippe Jacquet, "Analytic Pattern Matching: From DNA to Twitter," was published by Cambridge University Press this year.

Born in Poland, Szpankowski received his master's degree and doctorate from the Technical University of Gdansk in electrical engineering and computer science.

The Arden L. Bement, Jr. Award was established this year by Purdue Professor Emeritus Arden Bement and his wife, Mrs. Louise Bement. The Bement Award recognizes Purdue faculty for outstanding and widely recognized contributions in the areas of pure and applied science and engineering.

The winner, who is nominated by colleagues and recommended by a faculty committee, is named by the university president, and receives a $4,000 cash award and $7,000 for their university scholarly activities.

An engineer by training, Bement has a long and distinguished career in both science and public service, holding numerous positions in government, industry and academia. Bement was director of the National Science Foundation from 2004-2010 and served as director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology from 2001-2004.

Prior to that Bement was the head of the Purdue School of Nuclear Engineering. He returned to Purdue to become the inaugural director of the Global Policy Research Institute. Bement has received seven honorary doctorates in science and engineering from universities in the U.S. and abroad. He received the Distinguished Service Medal of the Department of Defense in 1980 and is a member of the National Academy of Engineering.