Margo Seltzer

Dr. Margo Seltzer wins award for her far-reaching contributions in computer science

Dr. Margo Seltzer, a professor at the University of British Columbia’s Computer Science Department, has been named the 2023-2024 ACM Athena Lecturer by the Association for Computing Machinery. 

The ACM Athena Lecturer Award recognizes a notable woman researcher who has made fundamental contributions to computer science.

Seltzer, who is a Canada 150 Research Chair in Computer Systems and the Cheriton Family chair in Computer Science, is being honored with this award for her decades of ground-breaking work, service and mentoring. In all aspects of her career endeavours, Margo has excelled through innovation and leadership. She is an ACM Fellow, past president of USENIX, and a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Seltzer is perhaps best-known for co-creating BerkeleyDB, an embedded open-source, database storage library that underpinned several first-generation internet services, including account management, mail servers, and online trading platforms. The software has been integrated into numerous popular operating systems, including Linux, FreeBSD, Apple’s OSX, and the GNU standard C library (glibc). BerkeleyDB was an early and influential example of the NoSQL movement and developed the "dual license" approach to software licensing.

Seltzer is also being recognized for her pioneering work in ‘whole-system data provenance’, which provides system support for assessing information, by understanding where the data comes from, who is using the data, and how it was obtained. Her research has demonstrated how provenance could be practically supported at the system level to implement important applications in security and compliance. Her subsequent work focused on applications of provenance, including intrusion detection, data loss prevention and attack attribution, and computational reproducibility.

Beyond her technical work, Margo has received awards for excellence in teaching and leadership, is deeply involved in mentoring, and several of her former students have become leaders in academia and industry. She has served as program chair for conferences in systems and databases and serves on numerous advisory boards for scientific and national boards. 

"I see all the amazing women who have shaped their disciplines and inspired me throughout my career." 
~ Dr. Margo Seltzer

Margo also formed the Systopia research group at UBC, which now has nine faculty members conducting research on operating systems, distributed systems, security, data provenance, program analysis, and more.

Systopia logo

In accepting the award, Seltzer stated, “I am humbled and honored to have been selected as the 2023-24 ACM Athena Lecturer. In looking at the past winners of this award, I see all the amazing women who have shaped their disciplines and inspired me throughout my career. I aspire to live up to their example and inspire the next generation of young women researchers to be bold, take risks, and define their own unique research style.”

The ACM Athena Lecturer Award carries a cash prize of $25,000, with financial support provided by Two Sigma. Seltzer will be formally presented with the award at the annual ACM Awards Banquet, which will be held on Saturday, June 10, at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco.

In addition to her role at the University of British Columbia, Seltzer is the Director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. She holds a PhD in Computer Science from the University of California at Berkeley, and an AB degree in Applied Mathematics from Harvard/Radcliffe College.

More about Dr. Margo Seltzer

About the ACM Athena Lecturer Award

The celebrates women researchers who have made fundamental contributions to computer science. It includes a $25,000 honorarium provided by Two Sigma. Athena is the Greek goddess of wisdom; with her knowledge and sense of purpose, she epitomizes the strength, determination, and intelligence of the “Athena Lecturers.” The Athena Lecturer gives an invited talk at a major ACM conference of her choice.

ACM Press Release