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CSE’s Seth Cooper wins ACM Doctoral Dissertation Award!

2011 UW CSE Ph.D. alum Seth Cooper, now Creative Director of UW CSE’s Center for Game Science, has been named the winner of the 2011 ACM Doctoral Dissertation Award.

The award is presented annually to the top Ph.D. dissertation in the field.  (Roughly 1,500 Ph.D.s in computer science were awarded last year in the United States alone.)

Seth’s dissertation, “A Framework for Scientific Discovery through Video Games,” was advised by UW CSE professor Zoran Popovic.  The dissertation explores how the video game environment can be used for solving difficult scientific problems.  Seth is the co-creator and lead designer and developer of Foldit.  Employing the collective efforts of tens of thousands of gamers, Foldit players solved the structure of a key protein in the fight against HIV, putting the combined power of humans and computers toward solving problems that neither could solve alone.

UW CSE Ph.D. alum Noah Snavely, now a faculty member at Cornell, received Honorable Mention in the 2009 competition.  UW CSE Ph.D. alum Aseem Agarwala, now a principal scientist at Adobe Systems, received Honorable Mention in the 2007 competition.  (Noah and Aseem, like Seth, were members of GRAIL, UW CSE’s superb computer graphics and computer vision group.)  UW CSE Ph.D. alum AnHai Doan, now a faculty member at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, won the award in 2003.  UW CSE Ph.D. alums Mike Ernst (now returned to the UW CSE faculty after a period of exile at MIT) and William Chan (tragically deceased) were co-Honorable Mentions in 2000.  (UW CSE’s annual departmental dissertation award, which Seth, Noah, Aseem, AnHai, and Mike all received, is named in honor of William.)  UW CSE alum Anne Condon, now Head of the Department of Computer Science at the University of British Columbia, received Honorable Mention in the 1988 competition.

Congratulations to Seth, and to the long line of superb UW CSE Ph.D. students that he joins!