Kathryn S. McKinley

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Women in STEM
Kathryn S. McKinley

Birth: January 10, 1962

Specialty: Computer Science

Major Contributions:

Several processor optimizations

Helped create the Hoard C/C++ Memory Allocator

Testified before House Science Committee

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Today we would like you to meet Kathryn S. McKinley, currently a Distinguished Software Engineer at Google where her work is focused on analysis and tools for optimizing the performance and efficiency of Google’s cloud.  McKinley was born on January 10, 1962 and studied computer science at Rice University, earning a bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate from the university, completing her studies in 1992.

Shortly after graduation she joined the faculty of the University of Massachusetts Amherst.  In 2001, she became an associate professor at University of Texas at Austin, and was promoted to full professor before leaving in 2011 to become a principal researcher at Microsoft Research then taking her talents to Google in 2017.

In the 90’s she was part of a team that helped develop an optimization solution for the software that allowed modern hard drives to work with the ever advancing speed of processors.  Her other work increased the effectiveness of processors and eliminated a problem called “false sharing.”  Then, she and her colleagues introduced the Hoard C/C++ Memory Allocator, which helps operating systems like Apple’s OS X and Linux to perform as efficiently as possible over multiple microprocessors. 

McKinley brought this expertise to Congress, where she testified in 2013 before the House committee on Science, Space, and Technology.  In her testimony she stressed the need for investment in industry and academic research to support innovation in information technology.  She spoke about how federal investment through the National Science Foundation, DARPA, and others helped to propel her own research, and what further support could help create in the future.

McKinley also helped create that future through mentoring, especially with the Computing Research Association Committee on the Status of Women in Computing Research, which she helped chair from 2011 to 2014. Passionate about inclusion and diversity in computing she co-founded ACM CARES committees to combat sexual harassment and discrimination in the computing research community.  She was also a member of the CRA’s board and DARPA’s Information Science and Technology Study Group and was elected to membership of the American Academy of Arts and Science in 2023.

Written by Mary Ratliff


Wikipedia: Kathryn S. McKinley

Kathryn S. McKinley’s Webpage at UT Austin

Google Biography Kathryn S . McKinley

Microsoft Research: Kathryn S. McKinley (Archived)

Written Testimony of Dr. Kathryn S. McKinley