By Joan Bennett

A Johns Hopkins University astrophysicist and computer scientist was recognized by the Microsoft Corporation with a Jim Gray eScience AwardAlexander Szalay, the Alumni Centennial Professor at The Johns Hopkins University and director of the university’s Institute for Data Intensive Engineering and Science, will receive the award at Microsoft’s annual eScience Workshop, held in Stockholm, Sweden. Established in 2008 as a tribute to the late Jim Gray, a Technical Fellow for Microsoft Research who disappeared at sea in 2007, the award recognizes a researcher who has made outstanding contributions to the field of data-intensive computing.

Szalay worked with Gray on a number of projects, including the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, an international collaboration of more than 100 scientists and engineers that aims to map one quarter of the sky to create a systematic, three-dimensional picture of the universe. “Jim and I had an amazing journey in collaborating on Big Data and how it is revolutionizing the way we do science. We talked on the phone several times every day and we wrote tens of thousands of lines of code together. Jim Gray was a very special person, and the award has a special significance for me,” said Szalay.

Microsoft honored Szalay in 2007 with a technical computing award for his contributions to eScience before the award was named after Jim Gray. Szalay will now officially be honored as a Jim Gray Award recipient, along with the 2011 award winner, Mark Abbott, dean of Oregon State University’s College of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences.