Zhang and Davidson
Professors Aidong Zhang and Jack Davidson were recognized with the ACM Distinguished Service Award and the Outstanding Contribution to ACM Award respectively. (UVA Engineering photos)

For their contributions to the computing profession, you could say these two UVA School of Engineering and Applied Science professors earned an “A++.” 

Computer scientists Aidong Zhang and Jack Davidson were among only seven individuals recognized in annual service-related awards bestowed by the Association for Computing Machinery, announced earlier this month.

"I am glad to count our faculty among those recognized for their service to our professional communities," said Sandhya Dwarkadas, the Walter N. Munster Professor at UVA Engineering and chair of the Department of Computer Science. "Aidong and Jack exemplify what it means to be an academic through their stellar research, teaching and service."

Selected from ACM’s global membership of 110,000 — the largest such group in the world — the award recipients were chosen by their peers for initiatives which have exemplified ACM’s mission to advance the field. 

Aidong and Jack exemplify what it means to be an academic through their stellar research, teaching and service 

Notably, more than half of ACM's members live outside the United States, and the organization has councils in Europe, India and China, which makes the honoring of two UVA professors all the more significant.

Decades of Distinguished Service

Aidong Zhang received the ACM Distinguished Service Award for her impactful leadership and lasting service to the broad communities of bioinformatics, computational biology and data mining. 

As an ACM member for 29 years, Zhang has devoted tremendous efforts to serving her research community. In 2011, she founded the ACM Special Interest Group on Bioinformatics (ACM SIGBio) and served in roles as chair and adviser until 2021. 

During her tenure, she started SIGBio’s flagship annual conference, ACMBCB, and served as steering committee chair of the conference until 2019. 

Under her leadership, SIGBio also developed featured programs such as Women in Bioinformatics, a Ph.D. Student Forum, and a Health Informatics Symposium to foster diversity, equity and inclusion.

Beyond ACM, Zhang’s numerous contributions to the field have included being selected by the National Science Foundation to be a program director managing federal investments in several computing-related areas from 2015-2018.

At UVA, Zhang serves as Thomas M. Linville Professor of Computer Science, with a joint appointment in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and the School of Data Science. 

Read the full press release about the ACM Distinguished Service Award Zhang received. 

Leading Through Tough Challenges

Jack W. Davidson received the Outstanding Contribution to ACM Award for leadership in and contributions to ACM’s publications program. 

Davidson served as co-chair of the ACM Publications Board from 2010 through 2021 and has been the founding chair of the ACM Digital Library Board since 2021. 

Davidson also helped guide ACM through the difficult process of moving from a subscription-based free-to-publish model towards full open access, which ACM is on track to complete within the next few years.  

Concurrent with these efforts, Davidson challenged the group’s publications board to address some of the longstanding issues in academic publishing. For example, as publication ethics cases expanded from plagiarism to more extensive cases of compromised reviewing, broken confidentiality and bullying, Davidson steered the board through challenging investigations and related policy changes. 

Among the efforts to adopt more inclusive publications policies during Davidson’s tenure, ACM instituted a new author name change policy, which applies to transgender authors as well as authors who change their names for reasons of religion or marriage. 

At UVA, Davidson serves as professor of computer science and director of the Cyber Defense Program of Study. 

Read the full press release about Davidson’s Outstanding Contribution to ACM Award.