Friday, December 30, 2011

New Year's Thanks

There are many things I'm thankful for this year.  Perhaps most notably, the new year marks the halfway point of my 3-year stint as "Area Dean for Computer Science".  Not that I'm counting.  I'm very thankful for that.

Strangely, though, despite the additional job, looking back on the year, it's been very enjoyable, research-wise.  That's not due to me.  So, importantly, it's time to thank some people.

First off, I thank my students.  Justin, Zhenming, and (now-ex-student-but-collaborator-who-I-still-call-student) Giorgos are all doing really interesting and exciting things.  They've been teaching me all sorts of new stuff, and have put up with my increasingly random availability as various non-essential Area Dean type meetings jump in the way.  Having multiple students all making great progress on entirely different areas makes the job really, really fun.  

Thanks to Michael Goodrich, who called me up about two years ago (has it been that long?  I had to go back and check) and wondered if I could help him on a project where he wanted to use cuckoo hashing.  And since then, he's continued to keep me busy research-wise, as we've jumped from trying to understand how to use cuckoo hashing in Oblivious RAM simulations to other practical uses of cuckoo hashing as well as other algorithmic and data structures problems.  He's an idea factory, and I get to come along for the ride. 

Similar thanks to George Varghese, who regularly provokes me into networking research.  I always have to listen closely when talking to George because there's usually some insight he has, often I think not yet fully formed in his own mind yet, that when you see it will leave you with an AHA moment.  (Sometimes, then, George mistakenly attributes the idea to me, even though my understanding comes from listening to him.)  Also, both Michael and George have been really, really patient with me this year.

I of course thank the MIC/MINE group, who I've already been thanking all week.  And John Byers, who has worked with me on more papers than anyone now, and is still willing to keep coming back.

I'd like to thank all the CS faculty at Harvard.  When I travel around, and people ask me if it's hard being Area Dean, and how much do I have to do, I have to explain that it's not really that hard.  There's some basic handling of paperwork and e-mail.  Other than that, as a group we have lunch on Fridays to talk about things we have to do.  I then sometimes have to ask people to do things so things actually get done (because I can't do everything myself).  Then people do them, and as a group we're all very happy.  When I try to explain this, sometimes other people look at me like I'm totally insane, which I've come to interpret as meaning that this is not the way it works everywhere.  I've got a great group of colleagues, so I can still sneak in some research time here and there.

I also tremendously thank Tristen Dixey, the Area Administrator for CS and EE.  She's the one that actually runs the place (thank goodness).  Seriously, I'd be lost without Tristen.  Many are the requests sent to me where my response is, "Let me check with Tristen on that."  Because she knows what to do.

Thanks to all my other co-authors, and anyone else I'm forgetting to thank.
Finally, I thank the NSF, as well as currently Google and Yahoo, for sponsoring my research.  I especially have to thank the NSF;  while I can't say I think they're perfect, I can say that I think they're wonderful.  They've funded me as a faculty member for over a decade now, and my students and I couldn't do the research I like to do without them. 

I also, more privately, thank my family, for putting up with my working habits. 

Happy new year to all.

(Just 18 more months...)

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