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Utah Professor Receives Computing Award

University of Utah computer scientist Chris Johnson.

Sept. 27, 2013 – Fusing advanced computing, simulation and visualization with biomedicine has earned University of Utah computer scientist Chris Johnson a prestigious award from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Computer Society.

The institute announced today that it is bestowing the 2013 Sidney Fernbach Award on Johnson, a distinguished professor of computer science, for his pioneering work in simulating anatomical structures such as the brain with high-performance computers, enabling medical researchers to improve treatment, hasten recovery and continue unravelling neurological mysteries.

More than 20 years ago, health care professionals employed standardized computer models with spheres representing organs. Johnson harnessed rapidly evolving computers and paired them with algorithms, MRIs and X-rays to recreate 3-D body structures. His first effort, created with University of Utah bioengineering Professor Rob S. MacLeod, garnered significant international attention and an IBM supercomputing award for being the most anatomically correct, MRI-based 3-D model of a human torso at that time.

“From X-rays and MRIs, we can build computer models of patients, and their parts,” says Johnson. “We can simulate the heart’s electrical activity, find the source of an epileptic seizure or examine stress on knee and hip replacements.”

The award also honors Johnson for contributions to biomedicine, including work on industry-wide advisory boards and serving on several international journal editorial boards. It also recognizes his success in establishing the University of Utah’s Scientific Computing and Imaging Institute in 1992. Johnson oversaw its growth from two faculty members and one Ph.D. student to a leading research facility with more than 200 students, faculty and staff members.

Johnson will receive the award, which includes a certificate and a $2,000 honorarium, Nov. 19 in Denver at the SC13 supercomputing conference.

Johnson is a long-time member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, or IEEE. In 2012, he received the IEEE International Parallel and Distributed Processing Symposium Charles Babbage Award.

Established in 1992, the IEEE’s Sidney Fernbach Award honors the memory of high-performance computing pioneer Sidney Fernbach. It recognizes outstanding contributions in the application of high-performance computers using innovative approaches.

Learn more about Christopher Johnson:

An IEEE news release on Johnson’s award is at: