ACM SIGACT presents its 2019 Distinguished Service Award to Rebecca Wright for her 11-year leadership of DIMACS, particularly in continuing and expanding the research and educational missions of DIMACS, for promoting diversity in computer science, and for using her expertise in privacy and security to help shape public policy on a national level.
A successful researcher in privacy and security, Wright joined DIMACS as Deputy Director in 2007 and served as Director from 2011 to 2018. DIMACS started as an NSF Science and Technology Center during the period 1989-2000. Since then DIMACS has had to rely on a series of individual grants and gifts to sponsor its programs, including its special foci, curriculum development projects and postdoctoral research program. Wright has worked closely with NSF program directors and other sponsors to ensure continued support of these programs.
Wright established two new education programs that engage women in computer science. The Douglass-SAS-DIMACS Computer Science Living-Learning Community for Women brings first-year undergraduate women at Rutgers who have strong interest in computer science into an immersive education environment, including a shared living space and academic experiences. The Douglass-DIMACS Computing Corps, now largely led by its membership of Rutgers undergraduate women, carries out computing activities with local middle schools and Girl Scout troops. Wright has expanded DIMACS programs that work with K-12 educators in the region.
Wright has helped harness theoretical computer science for the public good. She has worked extensively on privacy and security issues in voter registration databases, through the National Research Council's Committee on State Voter Registration Databases, the ACM's US Public Policy Council, and the Privacy and Technology Advisory Board of the Electronic Registration Information Center.
Wright serves on the CRA-W and the Simons Foundation Mathematical and Physical Sciences Advisory Board. She briefed the US Senate’s Diversity in Tech Caucus in 2016 as a representative of CRA-W and leads the CRA-W’s efforts in cosponsoring the SWSIS Scholarships for Women Studying Information Security program.
With this award, ACM SIGACT recognizes Rebecca Wright’s extraordinary service to the theoretical computer science community and beyond.