Amato honored for robotics leadership with Saridis Award

7/30/2019 David Mercer, Computer Science

Written by David Mercer, Computer Science

CSL Professor and Illinois Computer Science Department Head Nancy Amato is one of the three recipients of this year’s IEEE RAS George Saridis Leadership Award in Robotics and Automation from the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society.
Nancy Amato
Nancy Amato

Amato was chosen for the award "for exceptional leadership in service of RAS conferences, publications, and membership, as well as mentorship of RAS volunteers." Amato is vice president of member activities for the society and a leading expert in the field of robotics.

Amato, who is also an Abel Bliss Professor of Engineering, said she was honored to be recognized for her commitment to the society and her field.

“The Robotics and Automation Society is kind of my intellectual and research home,” she said. “I spend a majority of my research energy there.”

Robotics is among the major priorities for Illinois Computer Science over the coming years, added Amato, who became department head this year.

“We’re going to be making a large effort in pursuing growth in robotics,” she said.

This year’s other recipients of the Saridis award, which was presented at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Montreal, Canada, were:

  • Alessandro De Luca, a professor at Sapienza Università di Roma, "for contributions to the robotics and automation community through research innovation and education, and for leadership in publication and conference activities in RAS."
  • And David E. Orin, professor emeritus at Ohio State University, "for exceptional leadership and dedication to RAS financial activities, governance, and awards."

The Saridis Leadership Award was established in 2008 and recognizes “outstanding contributions of an individual for his/her exceptional leadership, and dedication that benefits the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society.” The award is named for Professor George Saridis, who was the founding president of the IEEE Robotics and Automation Council, which later became the Robotics and Automation Society.

Amato is the first Saridis Award recipient from Illinois Computer Science and the first woman to receive the award.

In addition to her current role with the society, in 2015 she was program chair for the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, playing a leadership role in putting together a conference entirely organized by women. Amato has also served as an elected member of the IEEE RAS Administrative Committee and was the inaugural Editor-in-Chief for the IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS) Conference Paper Review Board.

Looking ahead, in her continued role as a vice president, Amato hopes to work to give faculty from developing countries better inroads into the robotics community, and to improve participation by women.

“We still have a ways to go in terms of representation of women in the Robotics and Automation Society all over the globe, so I’d like us to make progress in that,” she said.

And at Illinois CS, she plans to develop robotics as a major research area, building on the university’s investment in the new Center for Autonomy here at CSL.

That commitment to robotics also includes a push to hire new faculty whose focus is on the field, such as Associate Professor Kris Hauser, who will join the faculty this fall.

“Robotics is going to be one of the most important technologies of the future. It’s going to transform our lives,” Amato said. “Just like computers have transformed the way we interact with each other, robots are going to be the next step and help us interact with the physical world.”

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This story was published July 30, 2019.