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SDSC’s Ilkay Altıntaş Receives CENIC’s Christine Haska Distinguished Service Award

Published March 18, 2024

Photo of İlkay Altıntaş

SDSC Chief Data Science Officer İlkay Altıntaş was presented the 2024 Christine Haska Distinguished Service Award by CENIC last week.

By Kimberly Mann Bruch, SDSC Communications (adapted from CENIC blog)

CENIC has presented its 2024 Christine Haska Distinguished Service Award to İlkay Altıntaş, chief data science officer of the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) at UC San Diego. Altıntaş received the award in honor of her many contributions to the data science research and education community.

According to CENIC, Altıntaş’s role at SDSC and UC San Diego has paved the way for numerous groundbreaking achievements. Her instrumental work as a Founding Fellow of the Halıcıoğlu Data Science Institute, the Workflows for Data Science (WorDS) Center of Excellence and the WIFIRE Lab at SDSC has not only set new benchmarks in data science but has also profoundly impacted many lives – especially through the WIFIRE Lab's advancements in wildfire management.

“The breadth and depth of her contributions are extraordinary, demonstrating that her work is foundational in every aspect and forms the core of significant advancements in the field,” stated CENIC’s Chief Executive Officer Louis Fox. “We are deeply impressed by the scope of her impact in data science, which goes far beyond the achievements listed here. It's a true testament to her dedication and innovative spirit.”

A cursory glance at Altıntaş’s publications demonstrates the broad applicability of the work she does, touching on topics relating to wildfire management but also including equitable open data access, virtual reality applications, workflow analysis and optimization and “space weather,” defined as conditions around the sun and interplanetary space that may affect space- and ground-based assets as well as human life. Examples of such conditions include magnetic storms on the sun’s surface, which can eject enormous plumes of superheated plasma that if aimed at the Earth, can cause widespread electrical and power blackouts and disruptions.

CENIC also recognized that, in addition to these topics, Altıntaş has had a significant impact in data science instruction as a popular massively open online course (MOOC) instructor whose classes have reached more than one million learners across the globe. Her tireless efforts in not only her own research but also in ensuring the sustainability of the research process itself demonstrate her incredible value to the research and education community and to the safety and stability of the global population which benefits from research into topics that impact us all.

Established in 2018, the Christine Haska Distinguished Service Award recognizes extraordinary individual service to the CENIC community and its partners and is named in honor of Christine Haska (1951-2017), who was a treasured member of the CENIC community, and led a life dedicated to bettering our world. She had a long career in higher education and in 2002 joined the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) in Monterey, California, where she served as the Vice President of Information Resources and as the Chief Information Officer. She played a vital role in establishing both NPS and the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center as CENIC members. Retiring from NPS in 2013, Haska went on to successfully lead an initiative to connect the major healthcare institutions in Monterey to the CENIC network.