Public Release: 

Carnegie Mellon announces Hanrahan and James will receive Katayanagi Prizes in Computer Science

Their advances in computer graphics enliven both computer and movie screens

Carnegie Mellon University

PITTSBURGH--Stanford University's Pat Hanrahan and Cornell University's Doug L. James, computer scientists whose innovations in computer graphics have enhanced such movies as "Avatar," "Hugo," "The Dark Knight," "Finding Nemo" and "Star Trek," are each recipients this year of Katayanagi Prizes in Computer Science.

The individual prizes honor the best and the brightest in the field of computer science and are presented by Carnegie Mellon University in cooperation with the Tokyo University of Technology (TUT). The prizes are endowed by Japanese entrepreneur and education advocate Koh Katayanagi, who founded TUT and several technical institutions in Japan.

"We are pleased to recognize the outstanding research achievements of Doug James and Pat Hanrahan," said Randal E. Bryant, dean of the Carnegie Mellon School of Computer Science. "Although the two prize winners were selected independently, they both have made major contributions to the field of computer graphics. Their work has yielded many benefits, ranging from more realistic animation for Hollywood movies to improved modeling and visualization of real-world systems and new approaches to high-performance computing."

James, an associate professor of computer science at Cornell and a former assistant professor of computer science and robotics at Carnegie Mellon, will receive the Katayanagi Emerging Leadership Prize and deliver a public lecture at 4 p.m., Sept. 12 in the Rashid Auditorium of Carnegie Mellon's Gates and Hillman centers. The award honors a researcher who demonstrates leadership promise in the field. It includes a $5,000 honorarium.

Hanrahan, the Canon USA Professor of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering at Stanford, will receive the Katayanagi Prize for Research Excellence and present a public lecture at 4 p.m., Sept. 26 in the Rashid Auditorium. The award recognizes an established researcher with a record of outstanding, sustained achievement. It includes a $10,000 honorarium.

"Both the winners are very active and innovative leaders in the field of computer graphics, which has a big impact on our rapidly evolving modern society," said Hiroyuki Kameda, dean of the TUT School of Computer Science. "Their activities in both research and education are helping to make our daily lives more comfortable and more sustainable."

At Pixar Animation Studios in the early '80s, Hanrahan was the chief architect of RenderMan, a system still widely used in the movie industry to create imagery of virtual scenes and characters, for which he shared a 1992 Academy Award for Science and Technology. He won a second Academy Award in 2003 for developing illumination algorithms for simulating realistic lighting, and improved physical models of materials such as skin and hair.

Two major themes of his work have been building high-performance graphics systems, including general methods for programming graphics processing units (GPUs), and visualization, such as one of the first volume rendering algorithms for displaying two-dimensional images of 3D datasets. In recent years, he has developed a range of tools for the interactive visual analysis of large data sets and co-founded Tableau, a data visualization firm.

In addition to his Academy awards and three university teaching awards, Hanrahan has received the Spirit of America Creativity Award, the SIGGRAPH Computer Graphics Achievement Award, the SIGGRAPH Stephen A. Coons Award and the IEEE Visualization Career Award.

James also is an Academy Award recipient, sharing the 2012 Technical Achievement Award for his role in developing Wavelet Turbulence software. The software rapidly generates realistic swirling smoke and fiery explosive effects and has been used in more than two dozen popular movies.

At Cornell, his research interests include physically based animation, reduced-order physics models and multi-sensory physics applications, such as sound rendering and haptic force-feedback rendering.

James is the recipient of a National Science Foundation CAREER Award as well as a 2006 Sloan Research Fellowship and a 2011 Guggenheim Fellowship. Popular Science named him one of its Brilliant 10 young scientists in 2005.


For more information, visit the Katayanagi Prize website,

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About Carnegie Mellon University:

Carnegie Mellon is a private, internationally ranked research university with programs in areas ranging from science, technology and business, to public policy, the humanities and the arts. More than 12,000 students in the university's seven schools and colleges benefit from a small student-to-faculty ratio and an education characterized by its focus on creating and implementing solutions for real problems, interdisciplinary collaboration and innovation. A global university, Carnegie Mellon has campuses in Pittsburgh, Pa., California's Silicon Valley and Qatar, and programs in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and Mexico. The university recently completed "Inspire Innovation: The Campaign for Carnegie Mellon University," exceeding its $1 billion goal to build its endowment, support faculty, students and innovative research, and enhance the physical campus with equipment and facility improvements. The campaign closed June 30, 2013.

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