Career Profiles

Explore profiles of real professionals and students to learn how they got started, what they love about computing, and all about the fascinating work they do.
Amittai F. Aviram

Amittai F. Aviram

PhD candidate, Computer Science, Natick, United States


BA, English, Columbia University
PhD, English, Yale University
BS, Computer Science, Columbia University
PhD (pending), Computer Science, Yale University
“The theoretical and mathematical foundations of computer science are much more important, and much more interesting, than you might hear from a lot of CS people. This is especially the case if you are coming from a humanities or arts major. Also, CS gives you a lot of therapeutic practice in taking your emotions out of your problem-solving—thinking in a cool and rational way about problems and mistakes instead of getting upset about them.”

Currently, I'm working on my dissertation, so my schedule is free-form. I put many hours into programming and debugging, looking up error messages or techniques on the Web, and posting queries on Web forums. My research is in ensuring that parallel programs behave as expected. I am adding features to the system and preparing tests to show that my system is efficient enough to be practical.

I sometimes read and judge research papers for conferences. I work alone almost all the time, but I meet with my advisor regularly. I also take time for my partner, family, and friends, exercise every day, shop, and cook.

I’m pursuing a PhD. in computer science specializing in systems. I love systems because it puts theory and practice together so tightly. You get to build things that work (you hope!) to solve known and pressing real-world problems, and you get to work with the deep-down nitty-gritty of computing machines and programs. This gives you powerful insights into the whole continuum from high-level theory and abstraction all the way down to instructions and transistors, and back up.

In a databases graduate course, I learned about the B+ tree data structure for data storage and retrieval. To deepen my understanding, I decided to translate the algorithm in the book into a working C program. I continued to improve the design and add descriptive comments. I made the code public, with a link from the Wikipedia article on B+ trees. I've heard from people who have used the code to understand B+ trees, and develop real-world applications, some quite complicated, and my work was cited in at least one research article.

Amittai in San Francisco

Amittai with Bjarne Stroustrup

Amittai as MSR intern

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Explore profiles of real professionals and students to learn how they got started, what they love about computing, and all about the fascinating work they do.

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RISC processor
John Hennessy
John Hennessy

Have you ever wondered how computers can execute complex commands in mere seconds? John Hennessy is a pioneer of reduced instruction set computing (RISC) architecture which employs small, highly-optimized sets of instructions to greatly enhance computer performance. He was instrumental in transferring the technology, specifically MIPS RISC architecture, to industry. He co-founded MIPS Technologies and co-authored the classic textbook with David A. Patterson, on Computer Architecture.

As Stanford faculty he rose to be the Chairman of the Computer Science Department, Dean of the School of Engineering, then Provost and finally the President of Stanford in 2000 (and till date). Hennessy holds a Master’s and Ph.D. in Computer Science from SUNY Stony Brook. He is an IEEE Fellow and was selected to receive the IEEE Medal of Honor in 2012. Hennessey also launched significant activities that helped to foster interdisciplinary research in the biosciences and bioengineering at Stanford.

CGA palette
Mark Dean

If you have ever used a PC with a color display you have been acquainted with the work of Mark Dean. After achieving a Bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Tennessee, Dean began his career at IBM. Dean served as the chief engineer on the team that developed the first IBM PC, for which he currently holds one third of the patents. With colleague Dennis Moeller, he developed the Industry Standard Architecture (ISA) systems bus, which enabled peripheral devices such as printers, keyboards, and modems to be directly connected to computers, making them both affordable and practical. He also developed the Color Graphics Adapter which allowed for color display on the PC. Most recently, Dean spearheaded the team that developed the one-gigahertz processor chip. Dean went on to obtain a MSEE from Florida Atlantic University and a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Stanford University. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, has been inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, and is the first African-American IBM Fellow.

Punch card from a COBOL program
Jean Sammet

Jean E. Sammet was one of the first developers and researchers in programming languages. During the 1950’s - 1960’s she supervised the first scientific programming group for Sperry Gyroscope Co. and served as a key member of the original COBOL (COmmon Business-Oriented Language) committee at Sylvania Electric Products. She also taught one of the first graduate programming courses in the country at Adelphi College. After joining IBM in 1961, she developed and directed the first FORMAC (FORmula MAnipulation Compiler). This was the first widely used general language and system for manipulating nonnumeric algebraic expressions. In 1979 she began handling Ada activities for IBM’s Federal Systems Division. Ada is a structured, object-oriented high-level computer programming language, designed for large, long-lived applications, where reliability and efficiency are paramount. Jean has a B.A. from Mount Holyoke College and an M.A. from the University of Illinois, both in Mathematics. She received an honorary D.Sc. from Mount Holyoke (1978).

Bletchley Park
Dr. Sue Black
Dr. Sue Black

Dr. Sue Black has demonstrated the power of social networking. She used Web 2.0 technologies to help raise awareness of, and critical funding for, Bletchley Park, the UK World War II center for decrypting enemy messages. She has also been an active campaigner for equality and support for women in technology fields, founding a number of online networking platforms for women technology professionals. A keen researcher, Dr. Black completed a PhD in software measurement in 2001. Her research interests focus on software quality improvements. She has recently won the PepsiCo Women's Inspiration Network award, been named Tech Hero by ITPRO magazine and was awarded the first John Ivinson Award from the British Computer Society. In 2011 Dr. Black set up The goto Foundation, a nonprofit organization which aims to make computer science more meaningful to the public, generate public excitement in the creation of software, and build a tech savvy workforce. Read Sue's blog about The goto Foundation:

Turing machine
Alan Mathison Turing
Alan Mathison Turing

Did you know that computing has been used in military espionage and has even influenced the outcome of major wars? Alan Mathison Turing designed the code breaking machine that enabled the deciphering of German communications during WWII. As per the words of Winston Churchill, this would remain the single largest contribution to victory. In addition, he laid the groundwork for visionary fields such as automatic computing engines, artificial intelligence and morphogenesis. Despite his influential work in the field of computing, Turing experienced extreme prejudice during his lifetime regarding his sexual orientation. There is no doubt that computers are ubiquitously part of our lives due to the infusion of Turing’s contributions.

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