Professors expand Comp Sci disciplines

The Computer Science Department hopes to expand into fields ranging from art to biology with two new senior professors hired this year, computer science chairman Steven Zucker said.

Professor Julie Dorsey joined the department this fall from a tenured position at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and professor Avi Silberschatz, who works at Bell Laboratories, will start officially in July 2003, Zucker said. Both professors fill gaps in the department and combine computer science with other disciplines, Zucker said.

Silberschatz’s research focuses on database systems and operating systems. He said he is interested in working with other disciplines, such as biology and the School of Medicine. Dorsey specializes in computer graphics, with work relevant to architecture, Zucker said.

“These two appointments illustrate how pervasive computer science is in our world — everything from the telephone system to the entertainment industry,” Zucker said.

Director of Graduate Studies Drew McDermott said it is difficult for departments to introduce new fields with junior faculty members, so hiring two experienced professors was especially important.

“They’re taking us into areas that we haven’t had expertise in — graphics and databases,” McDermott said. “And we think they’re very important.”

Silberschatz was a professor at the University of Texas at Austin before working at Bell Labs, where he is vice president of the Information Sciences Research Center. He said he went to Bell Labs because wanted to do practical work such as building large systems, which he could not do in academia. But Silberschatz said he had always planned to return to academia.

“I previously was in a large state university,” Silberschatz said. “I wanted to be in a much smaller setting — I had offers from other schools of similar size and prestige.”

Computer science professor Joan Feigenbaum said Silberschatz’s areas of expertise are core areas in computer science and will be a boost to evaluations and rankings of the department.

Feigenbaum also said computer graphics is a mainstay of computer science education and Dorsey fills a gap that existed in the department. She said it is especially unusual to recruit a computer science professor from MIT.

“There’s also the coup of getting a tenured woman professor at MIT,” Feigenbaum said. “MIT is the citadel of computer science and technology.”

Dorsey was out of town and unavailable for comment Wednesday.

Zucker said Dorsey works in graphics, such as rendering buildings that look as though they have been weathered or animating architectural drawings.

“These are very subtle notions because 3-dimensional perception of space is very subjective,” Zucker said.

Dorsey may have found Yale particularly attractive because the department allows interdisciplinary work, Zucker said.

“She wants to live in the interface between those two areas,” Zucker said.

Feigenbaum said she hopes Dorsey will help the Computer Science Department build ties in other fields.

“There’s great potential in the upcoming years from computer science for playing a role in arts and architecture,” Feigenbaum said. “Yale is very strong in arts and architecture and now computer science can participate in that endeavor.”

Dorsey will offer an undergraduate course in graphics in the spring semester, for which there has been great demand, Zucker said.

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