Richard T. Cheng Professorship in Computer Science

Richard T. ChengDr. Richard T. Cheng (MS CS '69, PhD '71) established a professorship in 2015 to help CS @ ILLINOIS retain and attract talented faculty. An influential educator, who founded the computer science departments at the Rochester Institute of Technology and Old Dominion University, Dr. Cheng's philanthropy at Illinois began more than 15 years ago when he established the Richard T. Cheng Endowed Fellowship in Computer Science. Dr. Cheng's influence also reached beyond CS departments in the United States. He helped establish the College of Computer Science and Engineering at King Saud University in Saudi Arabia, where he also advised the government about the nation's computer network.

An entrepreneur, he founded ECI Systems & Engineering in 1980. At its peak, the Virginia-based company was a leading integrated systems provider for the U.S. military and government, with annual sales of $50 million, more than 500 employees, and 32 offices around the world. In 2011, Cheng was recognized by the College of Engineering at Illinois with the Alumni Award for Distinguished Service for his outstanding leadership in education and in business.

For years, the memory consistency model, which affects a computer’s programmability and performance, was one of the most challenging and contentious areas in concurrent hardware and software specification. One solution, sequential consistency, was the simplest to program, but most systems did not provide it for performance reasons.

Instead, the solution was to have divergent models—often ambiguously specified—for different hardware. That is, until Sarita Adve, the Richard T. Cheng Professor of Computer Science, helped bring the hardware and software communities together to address the problem.Sarita Adve

Adve’s early work departed from the prevalent hardware-centric approaches to use a combined hardware/software view more appropriate for an interface. She observed that for well-synchronized programs, which she formalized as data-race-free, both sequential consistency and high performance could be achieved. She then developed a comprehensive framework to specify memory models as providing sequential consistency for data-race-free programs. Her data-race-free model now forms the foundation of the memory models for Java and C++.

Adve has also made key research contributions to low-power architectures. Her group was among the first to recognize that significant power reductions required breaking traditional system boundaries in favor of a collaborative, cross-layer system-wide power management framework. Her GRACE project was the first to demonstrate a prototype system where the hardware, operating system, network, and applications all adapted collaboratively to minimize energy while still meeting real-time quality of service requirements.

In collaboration with industry researchers, Adve has also explored hardware resiliency and was one of the first to develop a very low-cost comprehensive resiliency framework that detects, diagnoses, and recovers from a variety of fault types. This work is often credited for making software-driven solutions widely accepted as a promising approach for hardware resiliency.

Recently, Adve’s work has challenged the research community to rethink how both parallel languages and parallel hardware are designed. She developed the DeNovo system, which exploits emerging software trends in disciplined parallel programming to make hardware simpler, higher performance, and lower energy, all at the same time.

A member of the CRA Board of Directors, Adve is a Fellow of both ACM and IEEE. She is also a recipient of the ACM SIGARCH Maurice Wilkes Award, a Sloan Research Fellowship, and the Anita Borg Institute Women of Vision Award in the Innovation category.