Faculty of Engineering and IT Alumni Awards 2016

Our graduates make extraordinary contributions to the University, their profession and their communities both locally and on the international stage. The faculty's 2016 Alumni Awards acknowledge and celebrate some of their remarkable achievements.

The Alumni Award for International Achievement

Dr Michael Cahill BSc(1998) PhD(2009)

This award recognises the excellence and impact of achievements by alumni internationally

Dr Cahill is a world-leading innovator in database storage engine technology. He has decades of experience writing high performance storage engines, and has had great impact on several of the leading open-source data management platforms, including Oracle BerkeleyDB and MongoDB, which play a vital role in running the activities of many of the world’s dominant internet commerce and social media companies.
In 2011, Michael co-founded a startup that developed a new open-source data management platform called WiredTiger, that was targeted at modern hardware with large memories and many processing cores. This startup was acquired in 2014 by New York-based MongoDB, which is used as backend software by major international websites and services, including Craigslist, eBay, Foursquare, Viacom, the New York Times amongst many others. Michael's software provides the core storage functions for MongoDB from release 3.0, and Michael now serves as Director of Engineering (Storage) for the company, running an engineering team in both the New York and Sydney offices.

The Young Alumni Award for Achievement

Dr Nicky Ringland BA(LANG)(2008) GradDipComp(2009) PhD(2016)

This award recognises outstanding personal and/or professional achievements made by alumni aged 35 and younger - to the University, domestic or international communities.

Dr Ringland is a champion for STEM education and women in IT. Recognising the dire need to improve STEM education for school students, Nicky co-founded Grok Learning in 2013 with several other university staff members. Grok Learning - which aims to make coding fun for kids - has quickly become a leading education technology initiative. In its first 3 years, Grok has taught more than 10,000 school students across Australia to program via their interactive web app.
In addition to her work with Grok, Nicky is an invaluable asset to the faculty through her volunteer work on the Girls' Programming Network and the National Computer Science School. The latter of these programs is a residential summer school that has been run annually each January by the School of IT for the last 21 years. As part of her role with the Summer School, Nicky is responsible for the pastoral care of more than 100 young people.

The Dean's Commendation

Peter Thornton BE(Civil)(1972)

This special commendation is given at the dean’s discretion to a highly deserving candidate across any of the four award categories.

Peter Thornton served as President of the Civil Engineering Foundation for 9 years, until 2016. Peter’s key focus during his first years was to build trust amongst the membership base, increase the number of new foundation members and introduce activities - such as the highly successful Governor’s Lecture Series - that were financially viable and well received by members. Peter leveraged his wide professional network in the civil engineering industry to open doors, initiate meetings and drive new membership, the income from which has helped support many supplementary post graduate research scholarships. Under his leadership the Foundation became a highly valuable connector for industry, alumni and current students.
Peter also played an active role in assembling the school’s industry advisory panel for the new curriculum and acted as panel chair. In late 2015, the Foundation was replaced by the Council of Civil Engineering Sydney and Peter continues to provide constructive input to this body.