Frank Tompa


"I have no data yet. It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data."

A. Conan Doyle
Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
Adventure 1. A Scandal in Bohemia

Frank TompaProfessor emeritus in the David R. Cheriton School of Computer Science and a member of the Database Research Group.

Teaching and research interests span the fields of data structures and databases, particularly the design of text management systems suitable for maintaining large reference texts (including the Oxford English Dictionary) and large, heterogeneous text collections.



  • Awarded the degree Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, by Dalhousie University for "outstanding personal achievements."


  • Awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal created "to honour Her Majesty for her service to this country... [and] to honour significant contributions and achievements by Canadians"; more specifically "in light of ... significant contributions to text data and design systems for maintaining large reference texts."


  • Named an ACM Fellow "to recognize and honor outstanding ACM members for their achievements in computer science and information technology and for their significant contributions to the mission of the ACM" and more specifically "for contributions to text-dominated and semi-structured data management."


  • Recognized by the University of Waterloo and the City of Waterloo as one of those who "epitomize the energy and enterprise that characterize the University of Waterloo" through the naming of the road Frank Tompa Drive.


2000 and 2007

  • Received a University of Waterloo Mathematics Faculty Fellowship and a David R. Cheriton Faculty Fellowship "to recognize a faculty member whose scholarly work has gained national or international attention, whose teaching ability is exceptional, and who has displayed a high level of commitment and dedication to her/his department, the Faculty of Mathematics, and the University."


  • Received a University-Industry Synergy R&D Partnership Award from the Conference Board of Canada and NSERC, as a result of the Industry Canada-funded Canadian Strategic Software Consortium (CSSC) project, entitled Text/Relational Database Management Systems, with industrial partners Fulcrum, Grafnetix, InContext, Megalith, Open Text, PSSystems, and SoftQuad.


  • Named a "leader in Canadian Science" by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) in their first publication of twelve Great Canadian Success Stories, as a result of the NSERC Cooperative R&D project with the Oxford University Press, entitled Text-dominated databases


In addition to advising and supervising students, courses taught cover introductory to advanced topics aimed at specialists, non-specialists, and software professionals.


Earlier research was conducted through the University of Waterloo Centre for the New OED and Text Research. More recently, research activities fall in the areas of XML data management and database security.

Approach to research

Principal publications

Recent research on combining text and relational databases and publications arising from that work are described elsewhere.

Material I wish I had written

Every experienced and budding researcher in computer science should read Jennifer Widom's tips on writing and presenting conference papers:


Administrative interests include promoting university-level education and curricula through the multi-university Consortium on Graduate Education in Software Engineering (ConGESE: aimed at providing continuing education for practicing computing professionals). Other recent service includes serving as the founding Director of the School of Computer Science, membership on various School and University committees, membership on the University Computer Science Accreditation Council (sponsored by CIPS), and serving as a founding member of the Boards of Directors of Communications and Information Technology Ontario (CITO) and of Open Text Corporation.

University of Waterloo
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