Women in Technology Hall of Fame

Dr. Pat Selinger

Dr. Pat Selinger

IBM Fellow & VP Data Management Architecture & Technology, IBM

Inducted in 2004

Pat Selinger is an American computer scientist and a fellow at the Association of Computing Machinery. She is known for writing the canonical paper on relational query optimization. Most of the query optimizers used in modern relational systems are based on this paper. Formerly, Pat held the position of IBM fellow and vice president of information management architecture and technology—an IBM Software Group.

Before Pat retired, she led technology development for the next generation of data management systems, responding to customer needs for information systems integration, including both classical database data like payroll and bank accounts and also less structured data like email and documents.

In 2002, Pat was the recipient of the SIGMOD Edgar F. Codd Innovations Award.

In 1999, following her move from IBM research to the development team, she was elected into the National Academy of Engineering, among the highest professional distinctions an engineer can attain.

In 1994, Pat received one of the highest honors of her career when she was chosen as an IBM fellow, the corporation’s highest technical honor. This recognition was due not only to her expertise, but also the many valuable contributions she had made over the years.

In 1986, she conceived and established the Database Technology Institute—a joint program between IBM Research and the IBM software development team that accelerated advanced technology into data management products like DB2 Universal Database. This establishment is one of the most successful examples of a fast technology pipeline from research to development and has become a model other groups try to emulate.

Additionally, after joining IBM Research in 1975, Pat became a leading member of the team that built System R: the first proof that relational database technology was practical.

Her innovative work on cost-based query optimization for relational databases has now been adopted by nearly all relational database vendors and is now taught in virtually every university database course.

She earned all three of her degrees from Harvard University, graduating with a doctorate in applied mathematics in the mid-70s.