The ACM SIGGRAPH 2020 Computer Graphics Achievement Award has been given to Kavita Bala, Cornell CS Professor, current department Chair, and the newly-appointed Dean of Computing and Information Science (CIS). In the press release on the significance of Bala's contributions to several lines of investigation, it is noted:

ACM SIGGRAPH is delighted to present the 2020 Computer Graphics Achievement Award to Kavita Bala for her fundamental contributions to physically-based and scalable rendering, material modeling, perception for graphics, and visual recognition.

Kavita’s early research focused on realistic, physically-based rendering. It includes seminal work on scalable rendering, notably the development of Lightcuts and other approximate illumination algorithms, as well as deep contributions to volumetric and procedural modeling of textiles. She also co-authored the book Advanced Global Illumination, which has become a classic text in the field. A related topic where Kavita’s work has been influential is the role of perception in graphics, including her impactful 2007 SIGGRAPH paper on visual equivalence, among many other works.

A second, later thread in Kavita’s work is on recognition of materials, styles, and other object attributes in images. Her work on intrinsic images and material recognition using crowd-sourced training data has been influential, and she also did pioneering work on style recognition using deep learning. This technology powered GrokStyle, a successful visual search startup that Kavita co-founded. Kavita has also done notable recent work on worldwide analysis of fashion.

In addition to her fundamental contributions to computer graphics research, Kavita has been generous in her service to the research community in numerous critical roles including as Technical Papers Chair of SIGGRAPH Asia 2011, as the Editor-in-Chief of Transactions on Graphics from 2015 to 2018, and as a member of fifteen Technical Papers Program Committees for SIGGRAPH and SIGGRAPH Asia over the years.