Press release
June 3, 2011

Judy Olson to Receive “Athena Lecturer” Award for Research Contributions to Computer Science

Irvine, Calif., June 3, 2011 - The Association for Computing Machinery’s Council on Women in Computing (ACM-W) will present Judy Olson, Bren Professor of Information and Computer Sciences at UC Irvine, the 2011-2012 Athena Lecturer award at a June 4 ceremony in San Jose, Calif.

The award, which celebrates women researchers who have made fundamental contributions to computer science, recognizes Olson for her internationally acclaimed research on how teams that collaborate from remote locations succeed or fail. “We have long known in computer science that if it doesn’t work for people, it doesn’t work - period,” Olson says. “I am happy to have the ACM recognize the important advances in the psychological and social aspects of computer use.”

Olson’s work combines computer science and the social sciences to develop a rigorous foundation for driving technical and social innovations, which can create widely effective, usable collaborative systems. Bridging computer science and psychology, Olson’s pioneering studies on interactive computer systems that enable long-distance collaboration have provided evidence and insight into what can be done to improve the quality of teamwork.

Her research has resulted in a relationship with physicians at Children’s Hospital of Orange County, who are practicing telemedicine. The doctors, who regularly use a combination of videoconferencing and robotics to treat patients in remote locations, are partnering with Olson to develop a deeper understanding of how these mediating technologies impact patient/doctor perceptions and interactions.

“Judy's work in telemedicine and in other environments with remote collaborators is absolutely critical for the modern world,” says Hal Stern, Ted and Janice Smith Family Foundation Dean of the Bren School. “Advances in communications technology have made it possible to build ‘virtual’ teams across the globe, and research about how to make such teams more effective is sure to have a significant impact.”

In her most cited paper, “Distance Matters,” Olson identifies four concepts that determine the success of distant collaboration projects. They include the characteristics of the people involved, as well as social factors like the readiness of co-workers to collaborate and share information.

An ACM Fellow, Olson joined the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences at UC Irvine in 2008. She is professor emerita at the University of Michigan, where she previously held the Richard W. Pew Collegiate Chair of Human Computer Interaction, and was associate dean for academic affairs in the School of Information. Olson, with her husband and fellow Bren Professor Gary M. Olson, holds a Lifetime Achievement Award from the ACM’s Special Interest Group in Computer Human Interaction.

Olson is the sixth woman to earn the Athena Lecturer award, which includes a $10,000 honorarium provided by Google Inc. and the opportunity to present a lecture at an ACM event. Olson’s lecture will be delivered at the ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work in February 2012. The ACM is the world’s largest educational and scientific computing society, uniting computing educators, researchers and professionals to inspire dialogue, share resources and address the field’s challenges.

Rizza Barnes
Director of Communications
Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences
University of California, Irvine