Full Bio

(700 words)

Cecilia Aragon is Professor in the Department of Human Centered Design & Engineering, Director of the Human Centered Data Science Lab, Founding Co-Director of the Data Science Master's Program, and Senior Data Science Fellow in the eScience Institute at the University of Washington (UW) in Seattle. In 2016, Aragon became the first Latina to be named to the rank of Full Professor in the College of Engineering at UW in its hundred-year history. She earned her Ph.D. in Computer Science from UC Berkeley in 2004, and her B.S. in Mathematics from the California Institute of Technology.

Her research focuses on human-centered data science, an emerging field at the intersection of human-computer interaction (HCI) and data science. She has authored or co-authored over 130 peer-reviewed articles and over 140 other publications in the areas of HCI, CSCW, data science, visual analytics, machine learning, and astrophysics.

She's published 3 books:

  • Writers in the Secret Garden (with Katie Davis, MIT Press, 2019)
  • Flying Free: My Victory over Fear to Become the First Latina Pilot on the US Aerobatic Team (memoir, Blackstone Publishing, 2020).
  • Human Centered Data Science: An Introduction (with Shion Guha, Marina Kogan, Michael Muller and Gina Neff, MIT Press, 2022).

    Aragon's early research in the 1980s laid the groundwork for her later contributions to human-centered data science; she focused on analysis of algorithms for processing large datasets. She is the co-inventor (with Raimund Seidel) of a randomized data structure, the treap, which has been commended for its elegance and efficiency, and is now widely used in production applications ranging from wireless networking to memory allocation to fast parallel aggregate set operations. She co-authored the first systematic evaluation of the simulated annealing algorithm on large datasets.

    Her work on data-intensive science, particularly the Sunfall data visualization and workflow management system for the Nearby Supernova Factory, helped advance the study of supernovae in order to reduce the statistical uncertainties on key cosmological parameters that categorize dark energy, one of the grand challenges in physics today.

    In 2008, she received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the highest honor bestowed by the US government on outstanding scientists in the early stages of their careers.

    Aragon's research has been recognized with over $28M in grants from federal agencies, private foundations, and industry, and has garnered six Best Paper awards since 2004. She is a 2017-18 Fulbright Scholar and a Distinguished Member of the ACM. In 2015, she received the HCDE Faculty Innovator in Research Award from the University of Washington. She won the Distinguished Alumni Award in Computer Science from UC Berkeley in 2013, the Faculty Innovator in Teaching Award from her department at UW that same year, and was named one of the Top 25 Women of 2009 by Hispanic Business Magazine.

    She has an interdisciplinary background, including over 15 years of software development experience in industry and NASA, and a three-year stint as the founder and CEO of a small company.

    Aragon is also active in program service and supporting diversity in computing. She is a founding member of Latinas in Computing, was a board member of the Computing Research Association's Committee on the Status of Women in Computing Research (CRA-W), a founding member of Berkeley Lab's Computing Sciences Diversity Working Group and Women in Science Council, chair of the IEEE Computer Society's Entrepreneur and Pioneer Awards committee, and has served as a reviewer and program committee member for numerous computer science conferences.

    She has also been a test pilot, aerobatic champion, and medalist at the World Aerobatic Championships, the Olympics of aviation. She holds the record for shortest time from first solo in an airplane to membership on the United States Aerobatic Team (less than six years), and was also the first Latina to win a slot on the Team. She has logged over 5,000 accident-free hours, flying airshows and competitions throughout the United States and in Europe. An active flight instructor since 1987, Aragon is a pioneer of "unusual attitude recovery training," where flight students are taught how to recover from emergency situations in flight. She was the founder of one of the first aerobatic and tailwheel flight schools in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1989.

    Aragon and her husband have two children. She enjoys reading, walking, biking, and flying. Her Erdös number is 3.