Perspectives

  • Alumnus Divyakant Agrawal, Professor, University of California at Santa Barbara
  • Dr. Agarwal is a Distinguished Research Scientist, ACM, 2010, member of various program committees’ such as, Distributed Computing Systems, NSF, and many more. He is also an Associate Editor for Proceedings of the VLDB. The time I spent at the Department of Computer Science at Stony Brook for my graduate education was the most rewarding period of my life. Not only did Stony Brook prepare me well for my professional life, the faculty, staff, and graduate students at Stony Brook provided me with an excellent model of the collaboration that is necessary for a successful academic enterprise. If I had to choose a graduate program again—Computer Science at Stony Brook would still be my top choice.

     

  • Alumna Lisa Sobierajski Avila, Vice President, Kitware, Inc.
  • Dr. Avila is a member of the VGTC Executive Committee, and has served on the editorial board for the IEEE publication Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics. Dr. Avila was one of two primary developers of the VolVis system for volume visualization; I believe that the benefits obtained from a graduate education are proportional to the effort invested, both on the part of the student and the academic program. I found the Computer Science graduate program at Stony Brook, and in particular, my advisor Arie Kaufman, to be both demanding and supportive. At the time, I often felt that giving seminar presentations, participating in team projects, advising new students, and providing lab tours were burdensome tasks that were secondary to my formal studies and research pursuits. I can now clearly see that these were opportunities for me to learn and grow in ways that endure long past the point when a specific academic lesson is forgotten. In fact, it was these informal lessons that gave me the courage and confidence to succeed in my current endeavor. Although technical expertise is important, I have found that good communication skills, teamwork, and the ability to accept responsibility personally and learn from your mistakes are essential ingredients for success. My advice to current and prospective students at Stony Brook is to embrace the entire educational experience. Participate in activities that require you to interact not only with other researchers in your field, but also with people who have no background in your area. The ability to defend your research to your thesis committee will earn you a degree, but the talent to explain your research to a group of sixth-grade students while educating them about the possibilities for the future will earn you a successful career.

 

  • Alumnus Kartik Gopalan. Associate Professor, Department of Computer Science, SUNY Binghamton
  • Dr. Gopalan heads the Operating Systems and Networks (OSNET) Group. He is also affiliated with the Secure Systems and Software (S3) group. The environment in the Department of Computer Science provided me with the complete freedom to nurture my first passion— playing with and building real systems. As a member of a dynamic group led by Professor Tzi-cker Chiueh, I was able to learn not only from some of the brightest systems researchers in the country, but I also had the opportunity to translate my own research ideas into working field products. The best facet of the department faculty has been the wide array of expertise in all areas of computer science. I was able to draw significant guidance from a number of encouraging faculty members in algorithms, distributed systems, and networking. Additionally, the student body in the department itself is intellectually bright and socially vibrant. A number of forums such as the weekly Donut hour, the Graduate Student Council, and the annual Graduate Research Conference, are just a few of the many ways to interact closely with other graduate students. The combination of dynamic and encouraging faculty to learn from, bright fellow grads to interact with, and the beautiful environs of Stony Brook village makes for an ideal graduate student life.

 

  • Alumnus John Hennessy, President, Stanford University
  • Dr. Hennessy is a recipient of the 2000 IEEE John von Neumann Medal, the 2000 ASEE Benjamin Garver Lamme Award, the 2001 ACM Eckert-Mauchly Award, the 2001 Seymour Cray Computer Engineering Award, a 2004 NEC C&C Prize for lifetime achievement in computer science and engineering and a 2005 Founders Award from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Sciences. When I arrived at Stony Brook in early 1974, after completing my undergraduate degree in Electrical Engineering, I entered the Ph.D. program with little exposure to Computer Science as an academic discipline. I had completed a number of programming courses, done some consulting, and was an admitted hacker (back when it was something to be proud of!). My formal knowledge of Computer Science as a discipline with elegant and fascinating theoretical foundations, however, was completely missing. At Stony Brook, I learned to be a computer scientist, and I learned the love of our discipline. I also had the wonderful experience of relating to the faculty as colleagues—colleagues engaged in joint research and colleagues who often learned together in the classroom. When I completed my Ph.D., I felt that I had learned the skills of being an independent researcher, had achieved a broad level of mastery of Computer Science, and was both well-read and able to converse in depth in my area of specialty. More than 25 years later, those are the same skills I try to nurture in the graduate students with whom I work.

     

  • Alumnus Myung Oh, President, Konkuk University, Seoul, Korea
  • Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of four different administrations, Chairperson of Korea’s first EXPO, President of the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), President of Donga Daily Newspaper, and President of Ajou and Konkuk Universities. The single greatest asset my experience at Stony Brook University afforded me was the ability to work confidently and comfortably with people, allowing me to participate in a broad spectrum of activities. Indeed, when I served as Senior Secretary to the President for Economics and Science Policy in Korea in the early 1980s, I was able to push ahead with developing electronics, semiconductors, and telecommunications as key future industries of Korea against surging opposition from economy bureaucrats. Also, when I served as Minister of Communications in the 1980s, I could boldly pursue the development of Time-division Telephone Exchanger (TDX), 4MD RAM, CDMA, and Supermini Computer technologies as well as the planning of the high-speed train and Incheon International Airport as Minister of Construction and Transportation in the 1990s. From my perspective, I was provided with an invaluable set of skills and strategies, which has allowed me to pursue a diverse and rewarding career at public and private levels in Korea as Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of four different administrations, Chairperson of Korea’s first EXPO, President of the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), President of Donga Daily Newspaper, and President of Ajou and Konkuk Universities.

     

  • Alumnus Hanspeter Pfister, Professor, Harvard University
  • Prior to his appointment at Harvard, Pfister worked for 11 years at Mitsubishi Electric Research Laboratories (MERL) where he was most recently Associate Director and Senior Research Scientist. He was the chief architect of VolumePro, Mitsubishi Electric’s award-winning real-time volume rendering hardware for PCs. My extraordinary story is that a company was founded on the Ph.D. research I completed in 1996 at Stony Brook. It is not very often that a new Ph.D. graduate gets the opportunity to turn a thesis into a successful product. In my case, it was certainly a matter of fortunate timing, but also a matter of encouragement, persistence, and long-term vision by my advisor, Arie Kaufman. In 1991, I came from Switzerland to the Department of Computer Science. What struck me immediately was the warm, familiar atmosphere between faculty and graduate students. In 1992, Professor Kaufman and I started working on Cube-3, hardware architecture for real-time volume visualization. By the end of my Ph.D. thesis, we finished the architecture of Cube-4. Mitsubishi Electric licensed the Cube-4 technology, and in 1996 I joined MERL, a Mitsubishi Electric Research Laboratory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, as a research scientist. It took two more years to make Cube-4 into a product, called VolumePro, and it took another year to found Real Time Visualization to design, market, and sell VolumePro. Overall, it took 15 years from the start of the Cube research to the first sale of VolumePro, and it was both an exciting and a challenging time. It takes visionaries such as Arie Kaufman and a nurturing and encouraging academic environment to make such dreams come true. The highest praise I can offer to Stony Brook is that it fosters such an environment.

     

  • Alumnus Nii Quaynor, Chairman and CEO, Network Computer Systems, Ghana
  • President of the Internet Society of Ghana, member of the Council of the University of Ghana, member of the Ghana Frequency Registration and Control Board, and a member of the Board of the Ghana News Agency. Graduate school experience at Stony Brook prepared me very well to lead the Internet revolution in Africa. I had learned to work from basic principles and develop abstractions in implementing system solutions. After my subsequent industrial experience at Digital, I returned to Ghana to first establish a computer science undergraduate department at University of Cape Coast and then founded the company Network Computer Systems that introduced the Internet to West Africa in 1994. Guidance from Professor Art Bernstein ensured that I remained applied to my work in distributed systems which enabled me to develop the Internet in Africa. That guidance remained with me as I worked toward building a community of operators in Africa who participate in technical policy about the Internet. Becoming a recipient of the Jon Postel Award makes me appreciate the experience at Stony Brook even more.

 

  • Alumnus Fred B. Schneider, Professor, Cornell University
  • Dr. Schneider serves on technical advisory board of cigital. He is a member of Norges Tekniske Vitenskapsakademi (Norwegian Academy of Technological Sciences), National Academy of Engineering, and many more. A Stony Brook graduate education launched me on a rather successful career path as a Computer Science researcher and academic. The collegiality and scientific cohesiveness made it a warm educational environment and the quality of the faculty and students made it an exciting one. Although the department has since dramatically expanded its facilities, its areas of research, and its faculty (including one of my own Ph.D. students), the department remains true to its roots, resulting in a vibrant and supportive place to do graduate work in Computer Science.

 

  • Alumnus Ben Shneiderman, Professor, University of Maryland
  • Dr. Shneiderman is a founding Director of the Human-Computer Interaction Laboratory, Member of the National Academy of Engineering, a Member of the Institute for Advanced Computer Studies at the University of Maryland at College Park, and much more. He is also the author of Software Psychology and a member of the Board of Scientific Counselors Meeting. He is listed among the top 1000 creative people in the USA in the book: 1000: Richard Wurman's Who's Really Who (2002). Visit Ben’s website for complete list of honors.