Weekly Memo

Dec. 16, 2013

Dear members of the Hajim School community:

    Why pursue a Ph.D.?  Philip Guo, who will be joining the Department of Computer Science as an assistant professor next fall, offers some very compelling reasons in a 12-minute video aimed specifically at students in STEM fields. His basic point is that, yes, a Ph.D. student trades off the monetary rewards of going directly into a professional job, but in doing so gains enormous freedom to: 1) make a name for yourself by initiating, collaborating on and promoting your own research, 2) fail repeatedly in an environment where failure is regarded as an opportunity to grow, not as a reason to be punished, and 3) choose from a larger pool of job opportunities when you graduate. I strongly urge anyone wrestling with this decision to go to http://vimeo.com/80236275.

      Congratulations to Henry Kautz, Chair of Computer Science, for being elected a Fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery. ACM is the world’s largest educational and scientific computing society. The category of fellow is ACM's most prestigious member grade, recognizing the top 1 percent of ACM members for their outstanding accomplishments in computing and information technology and/or outstanding service to ACM and the larger computing community. Henry's citation notes his contributions to artificial intelligence and pervasive computing with applications to assistive technology and health. This is a well-earned recognition!

      Jon Ellis, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering and of Optics, passes along noteworthy accomplishments by some of his current and former students. Grad student Michael Echter, senior Andrew Keene and Chris Roll '12, now on the technical staff at MIT Lincoln Lab, received a best poster award at the 2013 SPIE Optifab Conference held this fall in Rochester. Their project was "Slope-sensitive optical probe for freeform optics metrology." And Minhao Zhu, a visiting Ph.D. student from Tsinghua University, who spent the last year in Jon's research group, won a student scholarship from the American Society for Precision Engineering.    

    One of the most encouraging results of last week's nationwide "Hour of Code" campaign was the large number of girls who participated. In case you missed it, the campaign -- embraced by President Obama and a host of celebrities -- gave millions of students from kindergarten through 12th grade a free opportunity to learn computer code through online tutorials presented by Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates. The lessons -- aimed at every age group and accessible on a wide range of devices from tablets to desktops -- will continue to be available.

    If you get a chance, be sure to drop by the Dean's Office conference room in 306A Lattimore from noon to 1 p.m. Wednesday for a reception to greet Al Clark, Professor of Mechanical Engineering, of Biomedical Engineering and of Mathematics, and view a display of his bridge photos.

    Do well on your final exams. Enjoy the holidays. See you next semester.

    And in the meantime, keep me posted!


Robert L. Clark
Professor and Dean