Wednesday, May 25, 2016

SODA Information

Phil Klein passed on that there's a delay at SIAM in getting the SODA 2017 CFP up, and of course we want to get out the relevant information out to the community.  So he asked me to post the following:   

SODA 2017: The official SIAM symposium webpage is This page does not yet have the call for papers. (My understanding is that the call for papers has yet to be approved by some SIAM staff who are out this week.) The deadlines are as follows: July 6 (short abstract and paper registration), July 13 (full submission).

The symposium will take place on January 16-19, 2017, in Barcelona, Spain.

For now, you can visit for the basic information (deadlines, submission site, and program committee).

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

David Johnson

I was sad to learn that David Johnson passed away.  David was a leader in the theoretical computer science community for decades, both in his research and in his dedicated service to the community.  He is a role model, and should continue to be, especially for those who believe that theoretical computer science has a large role to play in the scientific world. 

Lance has already written a post describing David's long, inspiring list of accomplishments.  I encourage you all to read it. 

Monday, February 29, 2016

Distinguished Service Award

Nominations are open for the SIGACT Distinguished Service Prize.

More information is available at the SIGACT web site.  

Here's the key info:


Nominations can be made by any member of the Theory of Computing community and should contain a statement of no more than 500 words explaining why the candidate deserves the award. The nomination can also include an additional separate listing of service activities, additional support letters, and other supplemental material such as a pointer to the candidate's CV. The nomination must include the name, postal address, phone number, and e-mail address of the nominator. Nominations are to be submitted electronically in PDF format by April 1, 2016, to the chair of the selection committee, Lane A. Hemaspaandra, at Please put "SIGACT Distinguished Service Award Nomination" in the subject line.

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Graduating Bits Announcement

Boaz asked me to remind people about ITCS, and in particular the Graduating Bits Event.  Just in time for those of us reading application folders....

ITCS 2016 will be held at MIT this year Jan 14-16. As in past years, we will hold a "graduating bits" event where students and postdocs that looking for positions can give a short presentation about themselves and their work. This can be a great way to let people know what you've been up to. See for more details. 

If you are interested in participating, please send Boaz Barak ( )  an email with the subject "Graduating bits" and the following information:

1) Name, Affiliation, status (student/postdoc)
2) Photo of yourself (web quality - no huge files please).
3) A short paragraph (3-4 sentences) about yourself and your research.
4) Homepage URL
5) Your presentation - 4 slides in PDF format, of which the first slide should be a title slide.

There is no deadline per se, but the presentations will be scheduled in the order of submissions so it’s “first comes first served”. I will also maintain a website with the photos and slides of all presenters, which should be a useful resource for anyone looking to hire theoretical computer scientists this year.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Yes, We Have Postdocs This Year

The Harvard Theory of Computation group has postdocs.  This year, besides our usual general call for postdocs, we are also inaugurating the Michael O. Rabin Postdoctoral Fellowship in Theoretical Computer ScienceThis new fellowship has its own independent funding, so that researchers can do whatever they want, working with whomever they want, once they get here. 

Oh, there's also our postdocs at Harvard's Center for Research on Computation and Society, and Harvard's Center of Mathematical Sciences and Applications also. 

Please apply!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Yes, We're Hiring This Year

Harvard's CS search ad is apparently up and out.  We're eagerly awaiting applications....

The Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
seeks applicants for a position at the tenure-track level in Computer
Science, with an expected start date of July 1, 2016.

This is a broad faculty search and we welcome applicants in all areas
of computer science, including applicants whose research and interests
connect to such areas as engineering, medicine, and the social
sciences. We are particularly interested in candidates working in the
broad areas of machine learning, human-computer interaction,
programming languages, and systems (including networking,
architecture, and databases).

The Computer Science program at Harvard University is experiencing a
period of strong growth and expansion following an extraordinary gift
in support of new faculty from alumnus and former Microsoft CEO Steve
Ballmer, ‘77, and the largest gift in the University’s history,
received from John A. Paulson, M.B.A. ’80, in support of SEAS.

Computer Science at Harvard benefits from outstanding undergraduate
and graduate students, world-leading faculty, an excellent location,
significant industrial collaboration, and substantial support from the
Harvard Paulson School. Information about Harvard’s current faculty,
research, and educational programs in computer science is available at The associated Institute
for Applied Computational Science (
fosters connections among computer science, applied math, data
science, and various domain sciences at Harvard through its graduate
programs and events.

Candidates are required to have a doctorate or terminal degree by the
expected start date. In addition, we seek candidates who have a strong
research record and a commitment to undergraduate teaching and
graduate training.

Required application documents include a cover letter, cv, a statement
of research interests, a teaching statement, and up to three
representative papers. Candidates are also required to submit the
names and contact information for at least three and up to five
references, and the application is complete only when three letters
have been submitted. We encourage candidates to apply by December 15,
2015, but will continue to review applications until the position is
filled. Applicants will apply on-line at

We are an equal opportunity employer and all qualified applicants will
receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color,
religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin,
disability status, protected veteran status, or any other
characteristic protected by law.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

This Year's Andreessen-Horowitz Meeting

Andreessen Horowitz had another Academic Roundtable, which I've written about in previous years (here, here). 

For me, the most exciting session was on Virtual and Augmented Reality (VR/AR).  It made me sit up and take notice. 

Matthew Turk started with an introduction, likening augmented reality systems to giving people superpowers.  Then he discusses his Augmented Reality system for remote communication.  Imagine something wrong with your car;  you call up a repairperson with your phone.  Instead of just sending video, your phone also sends information building up a 3-D model of what's being viewed.  So the repairperson can manipulate that 3-D model, essentially poking around the car looking at things independently, and then sending you annotated information (like "flip this switch", and circling the switch in an image from the model).  It looked pretty useful.

Steven Seitz then talked about Google's Jump and Cardboard projects.  Jump is a relatively cheap circular camera system that lets you take 360 degree "surround-sound" type video.  Cardboard let's you take your phone, put it in an Viewmaster style cardboard box, and view these 360 degree videos.  I got to try it, and it's amazing;  you really feel like you're in the middle of a scene.  It's "immersive", which appears to the one of the buzzwords for VR/AR experiences.  A scene when you're in barn surrounded by horses in their stalls really had the feel of being in a barn surrounded by horses.  You have to be careful -- you tend to turn and walk a bit as you're in the scene, which can be a recipe for trouble (like walking into a pool with your cell phone).   I didn't realize how "soon" this type of VR experience will be mainstream.

Derek Belch of STRIVR talked about his company, which is bringing virtual reality systems to sports training.  So the quarterback can practice passing plays, getting the mental training without having to have a team physically out on the field.  Besides showing off their innovative system, he talked about building a company in this space. 

There were some other great talks -- several others, but to name just a couple, Michael Jordan of Berkeley talked about the theory of combining differential privacy with statistical inference, and Jason Mars of the University of Michigan talked about Sirius, their open-source intelligent personal assistant  

The meeting always makes the whole startup idea seem very exciting.  However, during Marc Andreessen's fireside chat session (no actual fire), they said the dominant failure case for failed startups coming out of universities is where a professor starts a company on an interim basis, and tries to hand it off to others.  There is no substitute for the "core team" being full time devoted to the startup.  (The "core team" doesn't have to include the professor, it could be students, of course.)   

The fireside chat also talked about CS education, and what it meant that CS was becoming mainstream.  How do we design a more open CS education, so people know enough to use and develop/create things on computers without being "computer scientists"?  How should we think of movements like the recent activity in New York, where Mayor de Blasio has said that all the city's public schools will be required to offer computer science to all of their students? 

Overall, again, I'm glad I had the chance to go.

[Note:  Andreessen-Horowitz doesn't pay me anything, or even suggest I blog about their meeting.  But they do pay for expenses for people they invite.]  

Thursday, September 03, 2015

One Lecture Down....

CS125, the "new", "honors-ish" Algorithms and Complexity course, got off to a good start today.  The room was full with not enough seats for people, the students asked good questions and responded well to questions asked, and we got through the amount of material I expected.  It's year 2 of the class, which is easier than year 1 in some ways (lots of material prepared), and possibly harder in others (some thinking about what needs to be tweaked or fixed from year 1).  We'll see how things shake out next week, but I'm expecting we'll be in the 30-40 student range, like last year.  I can never tell if I managed to scare students off or make them want to take it.  (The challenge is that I want to do both;  scare off people without sufficient background, but interest students who do but might not realize it and might not even be Computer Science majors.)  Pleasantly, I felt very excited during and after the lecture, and will try to hold on to that positive energy.  

In other, much much stranger news, Harvard's CS50 appears to have a "backlash" movement, as described in today's Crimson article.  Apparently, according to some, there's intense "social pressure" to take CS50, and students need to be told that it's OK not to take the class.  I find this quite odd and, from my vantage point, misguided.  (Of course, I'm not a college freshman.)  I can't recall any such organized movement against Economics 10 at Harvard, which has been for decades now the most popular class at Harvard, although even when I was a student there was something one could potentially call cult-like about it.  (Cult of Wall Street....)  But that didn't mean people complained;  if you didn't want to take the class, you didn't, not really a thing.  Sure, the CS department here has been actively trying to attract students for decades -- CS50 was a good-sized class even before David Malan took over -- and David has just been very successful at it, with a combination of organization, interesting material, vision, and, yes, good marketing.  Naturally, here in CS, we believe that in our idealized world nearly all undergraduates would have a CS course as part of their liberal arts education, and we provide several other entry courses besides CS50.  I was initially thinking the movement described in the article was just a joke, and maybe I'm being April Fooled, but I'm not sure where those responsible are coming from.

And speaking of bringing in students to CS, Ben Golub and Yaron Singer are doing a new Econ-CS class at Harvard (counts for either;  also good for Applied Math majors) simply entitled Networks.  I'm a bit jealous -- this is a class I've thought about teaching also, but was busy and happy teaching algorithms -- but hopefully now that they've started it up it means I'll get a chance to teach it some year(s) down the line.

More insight into whether our enrollment numbers are still rising (is that still possible?) next week...


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

CACM Viewpoints on Theory and Experiments

There's a fun pair of viewpoints in the September CACM by Jeffrey Ullman and myself on experiments in computer science research, with him addressing systems conferences(/people) being far too focused on experiments as the research validation methodology, and me addressing theory conferences(/people) being almost strangely averse to experimental results.  (This link may bring you a digital version of his viewpoint, and this link to mine.)  I hope they might be interesting reading or food for thought.  As someone who works in both camps, I find this separation -- which we both seem to think is growing -- worrisome for the future of the CS research community.   

We actually wrote these up about a year ago (or maybe longer).  Jeff wrote something on the topic on Google+, and I responded.  I think he got drafted into writing something for CACM, and then I got drafted in later.  There was a pretty thorough reviewing process, with a couple of back and forth rounds;  then there was a non-trivial wait for publication.  This seems OK to me -- I'm glad CACM has a non-trivial queue of items for publication.  Overall it was a thorough and reasonably pleasant publication experience, and it's appealing that CACM offers a platform for these types of editorial comments.