UC Berkeley professor Jennifer Chayes wins distinguished service award

Photo of Jennifer Chayes
Tiffany Lohwater/Courtesy
Campus professor Jennifer Chayes was awarded the 2020 Association for Computing Machinery, or ACM, Distinguished Service Award on Wednesday. According to Chayes, she works to conduct research and educational opportunities on campus and is committed to embracing diversity.

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Before becoming UC Berkeley campus associate provost of the Division of Computing, Data Science and Society, or CDSS, Jennifer Chayes led three interdisciplinary labs with Microsoft and authored more than 25 patents and 100 scientific papers.

On Wednesday, Chayes received the 2020 Association for Computing Machinery, or ACM, Distinguished Service Award for her “effective leadership, mentorship, and dedication to diversity” in computer science.

The award recognizes a distinguished individual nominated by peers around the world for service to the computing field, according to Chayes. Chayes has participated in numerous scientific advisory councils such as the National Research Council and National Academy of Sciences, an ACM press release adds.

“This award validates what I have always done, which is to work with a variety of people to imagine new interdisciplinary areas, and then to help build institutions with diverse teams to help realize these visions,” Chayes said in an email. “Along the way, I’ve mentored more than 100 women and quite a few men as well. I plan to continue doing this and make sure that my mentees pay it forward and mentor others.”

Katherine Yelick, a campus professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences and the associate dean for research in the division of CDSS, described Chayes as “just incredibly high energy, very visionary.”

Chayes’ dedication to leading diversity is seen in her leadership of the Microsoft Research New England, New York City and Montreal labs. The labs she founded have three times the number of female employees compared to corporate labs, according to Chayes.

Additionally, Chayes noted an “unusually high percentage” of members of the LGBTQ+ community and people of color in her labs.

Chayes said she works to facilitate research and educational opportunities on campus and commits to embracing diversity as a “core value.” Chayes noted that CDSS needs diversity in its students, faculty, research and education.

ACM spokesperson Jim Ormond praised Chayes for her efforts to enhance diversity and create a more inclusive environment.

“A lot of people talk about diversity but then when the rubber hits the road, how are you doing it?” Ormond said. “How are you bringing in the women?”

According to Chayes, the best way to achieve diversity is through professionals in the field mentoring young people.

Ormond outlined how Chayes successfully introduced women to the traditionally male-dominated field: outreach, enlisting them, incorporating them into the company and serving as their “champion or mentor.”

“We will strive to improve biomedicine and health, climate and sustainability, and human welfare and social justice,” Chayes said in the email. “We will do this by bringing diverse voices to the table — women, people of color, indigenous communities, the LGBTQ community, the differently-abled community … Our voices will change the dynamics of society.”

Contact Kira Rao-Poolla and Rina Rossi at [email protected].