Distinguished Alumni Awards

Joan L. Mitchell

Joan L. Mitchell
To Joan L. Mitchell, for changing the way the world is viewed through the development of novel compression methods for image data, allowing for more efficient processing, storage, and distribution

Fellow, IBM Corporation, IBM Printing Systems Division, Boulder, Colorado

  • BS 1969, Physics, Stanford University
  • MS 1971, Physics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • PhD 1974, Physics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Immediately after graduate school, Joan L. Mitchell joined the Exploratory Printing Technologies group at the IBM T. J. Watson Research Center. Since 1976, she has worked in the field of image processing and data compression and is co-inventor on 68 patents. She is a leading authority on the compression of image data for more efficient processing, storage, and distribution. Facsimile machines, video conferencing, the Internet, digital photography, and printing, all reflect her major contributions to industry standards such as G3 and G4, JPEG, and JBIG-1 and JBIG-2.

Mitchell was a leader of the Joint Photographic Experts Group, the international organization that developed JPEG image compression, the first color still-image data compression international standard. In 1991-92, she headed the U.S. delegation, and also served as an editor of the standard’s documentation—a very important role in ensuring its dissemination and adoption. She coauthored two popular books—JPEG: Still Image Data Compression Standard and MPEG Video Compression Standard— providing answers and guidance on these compression standards for both the professional and the student.

Inside IBM, Mitchell’s innovations have resulted in fundamental advances in highperformance compression/decompression hardware and software for a variety of products, from special-purpose microprocessors to high-quality printers. She has received six IBM Outstanding Innovation Awards for achievements ranging from improved image compression algorithms to the Q-coder. She was elected to the IBM Academy of Technology in 1997, and named an IBM Fellow in 2001, the highest distinction that the company awards to its employees. Mitchell is a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers and, in 2004, she was elected a member of the National Academy of Engineering.

Mitchell has also remained connected to her alma mater, spending a sabbatical semester in 1996 as a visiting professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and as a visiting scientist at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology. In February 2005, Mitchell returned to campus for a week-long series of mentoring visits to share her experiences with the Society of Women Engineers, physics women graduate students, and undergraduate students in physics (PHYS 498IPR), and electrical and computer engineering (ECE 200). 

Current as of 2006.