"Dr. Ryder is a high achiever in her research, mentoring and diversity service," notes Professor and Department Head Calvin J. Ribbens of Virginia Tech in his recommendation letter for Brown CS alum Barbara Ryder. "As the first woman at Professor II (an honorific professorial grade above full professor) in the Computer Science Department at Rutgers and the first woman department head in the history of the Virginia Tech College of Engineering, she has been a trailblazer for women of high achievement in computing."
Barbara, now the J. Byron Maupin Professor Emerita of Engineering in the Department of Computer Science at Virginia Tech, has been named the recipient of the 2021 Harrold and Notkin Research and Graduate Mentoring Award. The honor, sponsored by the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT) Board of Directors, recognizes faculty members from non-profit institutions who distinguish themselves with outstanding research and excellent graduate mentoring, as well as those who recruit, encourage, and promote women and minorities in computing fields. It's bestowed in memory of Mary Jean Harrold and Brown CS alum David Notkin, in honor of their outstanding research, graduate mentoring, and diversity contributions.
"As an academic," Barbara has said, "the greatest influence I can have is in shaping the attitudes of my students. My PhD, MS, and undergraduate students have been influenced by my research emphasis on algorithms and their empirical validation. The impact is hard to measure, but each successive student can build on a legacy of theoretical and empirical rigor. Teaching students how to do research on their own and then to present their accomplishments to others can be very satisfying. Showing undergraduates how to do independent work with our group is especially rewarding."
Barbara received her A.B. degree in Applied Mathematics from Brown University (1969), her Masters degree in Computer Science from Stanford University (1971) and her Ph.D degree in Computer Science at Rutgers University (1982). From 2008-2015 she served as Head of the Department of Computer Science at Virginia Tech, and retired on September 1, 2016. Dr. Ryder served on the faculty of Rutgers from 1982-2008. She also worked in the 1970s at AT&T Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, NJ. Dr. Ryder's research interests on static and dynamic program analyses for object-oriented systems, focus on usage in practical software tools for ensuring the quality and security of industrial-strength applications.
Barbara became a Fellow of the ACM in 1998, received the IEEE Computer Society TCSE Distinguished Women in Science and Engineering Award (2018), received the ACM SIGSOFT Influential Educator Award (2015), the Virginia AAUW Woman of Achievement Award (2014), and the ACM President's Award (2008), was selected as a CRA-W Distinguished Professor (2004), and received the ACM SIGPLAN Distinguished Service Award (2001). She has been an active leader in ACM (e.g., Vice President 2010-2012, Secretary-Treasurer 2008-2010; ACM Council 2000-2008; General Chair, FCRC 2003; Chair ACM SIGPLAN (1995-97)). She served as a Member of the Board of Directors of the Computer Research Association (2014-2020, 1998-2001). Dr. Ryder has served as an editorial board member of ACM Transactions on Software Engineering and Methodology, ACM Transactions on Programming Languages and Systems, IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering, Software: Practice and Experience, and Science of Computer Programming.
While Barbara was Department Head of Computer Science at Virginia Tech, the percentage of women in the undergraduate program increased from 4.2 percent (Fall 2007) to more than 16 percent (Fall 2016), reaching 19 percent in Fall 2019. Dr. Ribbens remarked, “These dramatic results are testimony to the effectiveness of Dr. Ryder’s culture-changing work as Department Head at Virginia Tech. It was a fitting capstone to her leadership and tireless efforts in mentoring women in computer science when NCWIT recognized the department with Second Place in the 2016 NCWIT Extension Services Transformation (NEXT) Awards .” She also was a founding member of the NCWIT VA/DC Aspirations in Computing Awards, having co-chaired these awards in 2012-13 and 2014-15 and having served on the organizing committee since 2011.
One of her main concerns as a mentor, Barbara explains, is getting more women to seriously consider a computer science career: "There are too few women in academia and fewer still that hold tenure-track senior research positions. The result is that young women who enter the university see too few role models of successful individuals of their own gender. By exposing women early to the excitement of doing research in a supportive research group, you can initiate them into the joys of collaborative research. The process of doing research is one of posing questions and finding their answers. If you do this in a way that encourages joint participation in egoless ‘what if’ questions, then by the time you find a problem solution, the whole is more than the sum of its parts. True collaboration achieves more than you would have by working individually and independently, an environment especially appealing to many young women scientists.”
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