Abel Bliss Professor of Engineering and Department Head, Computer Science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Nancy M. Amato is Head of the Computer Science Department and Abel Bliss Professor of Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She received undergraduate degrees in Mathematical Sciences and Economics from Stanford, and MS and PhD degrees in Computer Science from UC Berkeley and the University of Illinois, respectively. Before returning to her alma mater in 2019, she was Unocal Professor and Regents Professor at Texas A&M University and Senior Director of Engineering Honors Programs.
Amato is known for algorithmic contributions to motion planning and robotics, computational biology and geometry, and parallel and distributed computing. Her group has developed several groundbreaking approaches for biasing sampling that have enabled sampling-based motion planning, the dominant methods in use today in robotics, to be applied in areas where it had previously not been feasible. She and her students were the first to apply these methods to understanding protein structure and folding. She is also known for her work in computational geometry, including the development of approximate convex decomposition (ACD) for partitioning polyhedra, and parallel algorithms, including novel approaches for parallel graph traversals.
Amato has been very involved in activities dedicated to broadening participation in computing at the international, national and local level. She was Co-Chair of CRA-WP (2014-2017) and of the NCWIT Academic Alliance (2009-2011), has Co-Directed the CRA-WP DREU program since 2000, and was Program Chair for the 2015 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) which featured an all-female organizing committee and 50% female invited speakers.
Amato received the 2019 IEEE RAS Leadership Award in Robotics and Automation, the inaugural NCWIT Harrold/Notkin Research and Graduate Mentoring Award in 2014, and the 2014 CRA Haberman Award for her contributions to increasing diversity in computing. She is a Fellow of the AAAI, AAAS, ACM, and IEEE.