Valeria Bertacco named Mary Lou Dorf Collegiate Professor of Computer Science and Engineering

She has been recognized for her contributions in broadening participation in CS, innovating in teaching, and in advancing the field.
Photo of Valeria Bertacco
Prof. Valeria Bertacco

Prof. Valeria Bertacco has been named the Mary Lou Dorf Collegiate Professor of Computer Science and Engineering in recognition of her contributions in advancing the field of computer architecture, broadening participation in the field, and in contributing innovations in teaching. Bertacco is an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor and also serves as U-M Vice Provost for Engaged Learning.

Prof. Bertacco is a highly noted researcher in the area of computer architecture and is Director of the Center for Applications Driving Architectures (ADA), which aims to streamline and democratize the design and manufacturing of next-generation computing systems. Bertacco’s own research focuses on computer design, emphasizing specialized architecture solutions and design viability with reliability, validation, and hardware-security assurance. Her work centers on the creation of novel solutions that enable the sustainable development of silicon systems, by making them more energy-efficient, performant and significantly cheaper to design and manufacture. In addition to her research endeavors, Bertacco is a co-founder of AgitaLabs, a computer security start-up. 

Bertacco also contributes considerable effort to broadening participation in the field of Computer Science to include underrepresented groups. In 2009, she co-founded a research exchange program with the Engineering programs at Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia and is a co-founder of AURA (African Undergraduate Research Adventure), a 12-week exchange program for undergraduate students from Africa to pursue research under the mentorship of a CoE faculty member. In 2021, Prof. Bertacco co-organized Africa Week, a virtual event on the fast growth that Africa is experiencing in many fields, and its connection to new research and scholarship opportunities. The event attracted over 700 participants from the US and the African continent.

Bertacco also advocates for inclusion in instruction at Computer Science and Engineering (CSE), leading workshops on how to foster welcoming classroom environments and serving as the faculty advisor for the Girls in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (GEECS) and the Ensemble of CSE Ladies+ (ECSEL+), two student organizations supporting undergraduate and graduate women and gender minorities in CSE. In her role as vice provost, Bertacco advocates for and supports university initiatives that create opportunities for action-based and engaged student learning, including such opportunities as international experiences, community-based curricular experiences, undergraduate student research, student projects and co-curricular experiences. In her own classroom, Bertacco has been recognized for her dedication to undergraduate education, where she has made it her mission to improve the undergraduate educational experience of her students. In large computer science courses, she embraces a personal touch and creates an interactive classroom environment. 

Bertacco’s professorship bears the name of influential U-M collegiate lecturer Dr. Mary Lou Dorf who worked in the CSE division for fifteen years. During her tenure at the EECS department, Dr. Dorf led a successful campaign aimed at generating awareness of and interest in the computer science undergraduate programs available to students in the College of LSA and transformed the structure of the introductory computing course (EECS 183) to be more interactive and inclusive. Today, EECS 183 ranks as one of the most popular classes in the entire university. Her initiatives earned her the Academic Alliance Seed Fund award from the National Center for Women & Information Technology and a NCWIT Extension Services Transformation Award for excellence in efforts to attract undergraduate women to the field of computing. Dr. Dorf was also recognized as a Collegiate Lecturer for her outstanding contributions to instruction and received the Provost’s Teaching Innovation Prize and the College of Engineering Thomas M. Sawyer, Jr. Teaching Award.

Together, Bertacco and Dorf developed Computing CARES, a program funded by a University of Michigan Third Century Initiative Grant and aimed at improving gender diversity in the Computer Science and Computer Engineering  undergraduate programs by fostering a better climate and more inclusive culture for all students, and increasing female student retention.

Prof. Bertacco received her MS and PhD in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University in 1998 and 2003 and a Computer Engineering degree summa cum laude from the University of Padova, Italy in 1995. She joined the faculty at Michigan in 2003. Prior to that, she was with the Advanced Technology Group of Synopsys for four years as a lead developer of the industry-standard Vera and Magellan tools.

Prof. Bertacco has received several recognitions throughout her career, including the U-M’s Faculty Recognition Award, the Harold R. Johnson Diversity Service Award, and Sarah Goddard Power Award, and the College of Engineering’s Herbert Kopf Service Excellence Award and Vulcan Teaching Excellence Award. She has received an IEEE CEDA Early Career Award, an NSF CAREER award, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research’s Young Investigator Award, and an IBM Faculty Award. She is a Fellow of the IEEE.