Lydia Kavraki, a professor of computer science and bioengineering at Rice University, has been named as the 2017-2018 Athena Lecturer by the Association for Computing Machinery in recognition her work in robotics.
Initiated in 2006 by the ACM Council on Women in Computing, the Athena Lecturer Award celebrates women researchers who have made fundamental contributions to computer science and comes with a cash prize of $25K via Google. And there is an actual lecture, to be presented at an ACM event.
Kavraki's claims to fame include inventing randomized motion-planning algorithms in robotics and developing robotics-inspired methods for bioinformatics and biomedicine. Her contributions range from getting robots to navigate obstacle courses to enabling drug molecules to morph in order to interact with target proteins. Currently, she's focused on the motions of Robonaut 2, NASA’s robotic assistant at the International Space Station. If you'd like to sample a bit of her thinking, check out a paper she co-authored in 1996 titled "Probabilistic Roadmaps for Path Planning in High-Dimensional Configuration Spaces."
Kavraki has also been an adherent of open source, spearheading an Open Motion Planning Library used in numerous robotics systems.
Among Kavraki's past honors: ACM Grace Murray Hopper Award; the Anita Borg ABIE Technical Leadership Award; and the Rice University Presidential Mentorship Award.