Albert Cheng Earns Top Honors from Computer Science Community

Cheng Named an ACM Distinguished Member and Appointed General Chair of Leading Real-Time Systems Conference

Being named an Association for Computing Machinery 2020 Distinguished Member is already a feat in the computer science profession. Becoming general chair of the International Conference on Embedded and Real-Time Computing Systems and Applications (RTCSA) further illustrates Albert Cheng’s dedication to excellence.

Albert Cheng
Professor of computer science, Albert Cheng, is one of only 64 people worldwide named as an Association for Computing Machinery Distinguished Member for 2020.

Cheng is professor of computer science at the University of Houston’s College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics with a joint appointment as professor of electrical and computer engineering. He is one of only 64 ACM Distinguished Members named worldwide in 2020. The distinguished member title brings him one step closer to becoming an ACM Fellow.

“I am humbled to be bestowed this honor,” said Cheng. “This is the first time a UH computer science faculty member is recognized by the oldest and largest computer science professional organization.”

According to the ACM, their Distinguished Member designation “celebrates specific contributions of members and their career growth as reflected in a long-term commitment to the field, as well as their collaboration with peers in supporting a global professional association.” Cheng was recognized for his outstanding scientific contributions to computing.

He has been a member of the organization since 1983. In 1990, he became a faculty member at UH and over time has developed professional relationships with researchers all over the world. One of them being Albert Zomaya, chair professor of high performance computing & networking at the University of Sydney.

They collaborated from 2011 to 2015 on the IEEE Transactions on Computers. Zomaya, who nominated Cheng for the honor, is now editor-in-chief for the ACM Computing Surveys, one of the top computing journals in the world, in which Cheng serves as an associate editor.

To be nominated, the ACM requires a candidate must have at least 15 years of professional experience in the computing field, five years of professional ACM membership in the last 10 years, and they must have achieved a significant accomplishment or impact in the computer science or information technology field.

Possible Changes to the Typical Virtual Conference

As the newly-named general chair of the RTCSA international conference, Cheng says he wants to bring back the interactive nature of pre-pandemic conferences, while still remaining online.

“I’d like to have a virtual meeting room,” he said, complete with avatars that conference attendees can create to resemble themselves walking around, “sort of like mingling in person.”

He would like to create poster sessions that allow attendees to visit a virtual room and speak to the poster presenters as well.

“My hope is to bring back the social aspect of a conference, which is missing in the typical presentation-focused conferences that we are seeing during the pandemic.”

He notes many people do not continue to listen to presentations, especially if the papers being discussed are about fields that are not their primary interest.

“But in a hotel setting, everyone is in the room,” he said. “They walk out and exchange ideas. This element is lost in a typical meeting platform, like Zoom. So I’d like to make sure that we have a better platform or maybe create one that will bring back the person-to-person element of communication not currently found at virtual conferences.”

Cheng will also coordinate the co-program chairs, making sure all of them work together to have diversity in conference publication, he said.

“We’d like to engage more minorities, female authors, which are traditionally not well-represented, especially in computer science and engineering,” Cheng said. “Also, we want diversity in geography. We don’t just want papers from the U.S. and Europe, but also from South America, Latin America, Africa, the Middle East. They have very good researchers, but they are simply not recognized. One of my goals is to enhance the diversity and quality of the papers to an even higher tier.”

He appointed three top female computer science researchers to the conference: Alessandra Parisio, senior lecturer from the University of Manchester, as publicity chair, and Pei-Chi Huang, assistant professor at the University of Nebraska Omaha, as web chair, and Chenchen Fu, associate professor at China’s Southeast University, as publicity co-chair.

ACM Turing Award winner Joseph Sifakis will present a keynote speech at the conference, which takes place August 18-20.

Overall, Cheng is honored by the designation as general chair of the international conference. It is the among the top four conferences in real-time systems and the top conference held in Asia in the field.

“I don’t take these honors as the goal,” Cheng said. “I will continue to enhance my research team and educate students and also help colleagues who want to reach this milestone, especially new colleagues.”

- Rebeca Trejo, College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics