CMU scientist receives top tech honor from White House

| Thursday, Nov. 20, 2014, 3:08 p.m.

President Obama on Thursday gave the country's top honor in technology and innovation to Mary Shaw, a computer scientist from Carnegie Mellon University.

Shaw was one of nine recipients of the National Medal of Technology and Innovation . They were honored at a White House ceremony.

Shaw is credited with developing the basic framework or architecture that software developers use to build everything from computerized medical devices to the latest fun app.

“Sometimes, I wish I had done something photogenic so I could point at it, but I'm fine with it,” she told the Tribune-Review in an earlier interview.

Shaw was a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon when she became interested in computer science. Obama said in his introduction that someone handed her a manual on how to use a computer and told her to read it. She joked that she did — and still returned the next day, he said.

“She has proven one of the unsung heroes of why we have such fun lives,” said Andrew Moore, dean of the university's School of Computer Science.

Moore said Shaw laid the groundwork for generations of software engineers to produce products with rigorous standards.

Obama lauded Shaw and the other winners for their “restless inquiry” and pursuit of answers. In addition to the National Medals of Technology and Innovation, the president awarded the National Medal of Science to 10 people. Shaw is one of five women among this year's recipients of both medals.

“Because of these innovations, our lives are healthier … our futures are brighter,” Obama said, before speaking about the role of immigration in upholding the nation's scientific excellence. He said the United States “needs an immigration system that doesn't send away talent. We tell them to go home after they graduate.”

Congress established the National Medal of Technology and Innovation in 1980 to reward people who make “lasting contributions to America's competitiveness,” according to the website for the federal Patent and Trademark Office, an agency of the Commerce Department. The National Medal of Science was established in 1959.

Megha Satyanarayana is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach her at 412-320-7991 or

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