Samet Honored with ACM SIGSPATIAL Lifetime Impact Award

He received the esteemed award for his pioneering research and scholarship in spatial databases and related fields.
Descriptive image for Samet Honored with ACM SIGSPATIAL Lifetime Impact Award

Hanan Samet, a Distinguished University Professor of computer science with an appointment in the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies is the inaugural recipient of the Lifetime Impact Award from the Association for Computing Machinery’s Special Interest Group on Spatial Information (ACM SIGSPATIAL). He was honored for his pioneering research and scholarship in spital databases and related fields and dedicated service to ACM SIGSPATIAL.       

The award recognized his five decades of advancing technical achievements and educational tools focused on databases, data structures and algorithms, solid modeling, computer graphics, geographic information systems (GIS) and computational geometry.

Other significant work involves innovations in robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), pattern recognition, multimedia and image databases, image processing, visualization, natural language processing, as well as programming languages, where he singly authored the first papers on translation validation and the related proof-carrying code.

He received the award at the ACM SIGSPATIAL 2023 31st International Conference on Advances in Geographic Information Systems, held last month in Hamburg, Germany. 

Samet is widely considered the founder of the field of “spatial databases,” which provided formative ideas for what would later become widely used applications like Google Maps and Microsoft Virtual Earth.

Other groundbreaking work involves spatio-textual search as realized in an application he developed called NewsStand, which lets users search for worldwide news on their computers or mobile devices with a map query interface. Produced by the ACM, the video to the right highlights Samet’s research and innovation in this area.

Samet is the author of the award-winning "Foundations of Multidimensional and Metric Data Structures" (Morgan-Kaufmann, 2006), spanning 1024 pages with over 2000 references, and the first two books on spatial data structures, "Design and Analysis of Spatial Data Structures," and "Applications of Spatial Data Structures: Computer Graphics, Image Processing, and GIS" (Addison-Wesley, 1990).

He was the founding editor-in-chief of ACM Transactions on Spatial Algorithms and Systems, and the founding chair of ACM SIGSPATIAL. He has led the growth of attendance at its flagship conference, known as ACMGIS, from 30 in 2006 to as high as 450, as well as significant financial sponsorship, at various times, from companies like Apple, Microsoft, Google, ESRI, Meta, Oracle, Lyft, Uber, Nokia and Amazon thereby leading to having substantial financial reserves. 

Samet is also a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the International Association for Pattern Recognition (IAPR), ACM, IEEE, the Solid Modeling Association (SMA) and the University Consortium for Geographic Information Science (UCGIS). He was inducted into the SIGGRAPH Academy in 2019.

Other notable accolades include the 2009 UCGIS Research Award, the 2011 ACM Paris Kanellakis Theory and Practice Award, the 2014 IEEE Computer Society's W. Wallace McDowell Award, and the SMA's prestigious Bézier Award in 2022.

Samet has been honored by the Washington Academy of Sciences with the organization's Distinguished Career in Computer Science Award and has received the SMA's Pioneer Award.

—Story by UMIACS communications group

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