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

Degree(s):

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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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.

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).

MATLAB graph
Cleve Moler

Cleve Moler improved the quality and accessibility of mathematical software and created a highly respected software system called MATLAB. He was a professor of mathematics and computer science for almost 20 years at the University of Michigan, Stanford University, and the University of New Mexico. In the late 1970’s to early 1980’s he developed several mathematical software packages to support computational science and engineering. These packages eventually formed the basis of MATLAB, a programming environment for algorithm development, data analysis, visualization, and numerical computation. MATLAB can be used to solve technical computing problems faster than with traditional programming languages, such as C, C++, and Fortran. Today, Professor Moler spends his time writing books, articles, and MATLAB programs.

Listen to what Professor Moler has to say about his life’s work: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IT5umwNSAxE

Router
Sandra Lerner

It is difficult to imagine a time when computers were not capable of sharing information and resources with great ease. Sandra Lerner pushed the boundaries of network computing as one of the co-founders of Cisco Systems, which introduced one of the first commercially viable routers. The router was born while Sandra was working at Stanford University in the 1980’s after earning her Master’s degree there in Computer Science. To avoid the tedious task of transferring information between computers using floppy disks, she and co-founder of Cisco, Leonard Bosack, created a local area network, or LAN, between their campus offices using a multiprotocol router that Bosack developed. Shortly thereafter the pair started Cisco Systems, and began selling the router which was a success, because it could work with so many different types of computers. After Leaving Cisco in 1990, Lerner started the trendy cosmetics company Urban Decay and became a philanthropist and avid activist for animal rights.

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.

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