CS+X at Caltech: Disrupting science and engineering with computational thinking

It seems like I’ve been waiting forever to make this post!  Back in the fall, I helped to organize an Alumni College at Caltech centered around the theme of “CS+X”.  Now, I’m very excited to announce that the videos from the event are up!

What is an alumni college you ask?  Well, instead a homecoming game or something like that, we get alumni back to Caltech by promising a day of research talks, well really thinks like TED talks!  So, Alumni College focuses on a different theme each year, and then does a day of provocative talks on that topic.  This year the theme was “Disrupting Science and Engineering with computational thinking” i.e., the disruptive power of CS+X.

As I’ve written about before, we view “CS+X” as what makes Caltech’s approach to computer science so distinctive compared to other schools.  We pride ourselves on inventing fields and then leaving them for others once they’re popular so that we can invent the next field.  So, “seeding fields and then ceding them”…

In any case, the alumni college was a day filled with talks on CS+X from researchers at Caltech that are leading new fields…  We covered CS+Astronomy, CS+Physics, CS+Biology, CS+Economics, CS+Chemistry, CS+Energy, and so on…

You can watch all of them on Youtube here.  Enjoy!

Socal workshop season is in full swing

People outside of Southern California often don’t appreciate how dense (and strong) the collection of universities is in the socal region.  Between Caltech, USC, UCLA, UCSD, UCSB, Irvine, Riverside, etc.  There’s a lot of exciting stuff going on!  And, one of the great things about the area is that there’s a strong sense of community.  That is really on show at this time of the year…

We’re in the middle of workshop season in the LA area where every week or so there is a Socal X workshop.  We’ve already had the Socal Control Workshop, next up is the Socal Network Economics and Game Theory (NEGT) symposium (next Friday).  The week after, we have the Socal Theory Day, and the week after that we have the Socal Machine Learning day! (The last two are being hosted at Caltech this year.)

So, if you’re in the area — I’ll probably see you at least once over the next few weeks!  Be sure to register for the ones you want to attend ASAP…

Postdocs available, lots of postdocs…

We always have a large number of postdocs around at Caltech (we usually have ~20+), and this year is no exception.  Our application site just went live, so please help me spread the word.  We have (multiple) postdoc openings in all of the following areas in CMS:

I am personally looking for postdocs as part of the first four programs.  Don’t worry too much about which program is best suited for you when you apply, the backend of the application site is unified so that all faculty can easily see all the applicants.  Just be sure to mark the names of the faculty that you are most interested in working with when you go through the application process.

I’m generally looking for postdocs in the areas of Network Economics, Smart Grid, and Online Algorithms, but a few areas that I’m particularly hoping to find people in are: (i) digital platforms (any flavor of research, from measurement to modeling to economic analysis), (ii) markets surrounding data, (iii) electricity markets for demand response and renewables, (iv) online optimization or, more broadly, online algorithms.  So, if you’re interested in these areas please apply (and send me mail)!

(Nearly) A year later

It’s been one year since I started as executive officer (Caltech’s name for department chair) for our CMS department…and, not coincidentally, it’s been almost that long since my last blog post!  But now, a year in, I’ve got my administrative legs under me and I think I can get back to posting at least semi-regularly.

As always, the first post back after a long gap is a news filled one, so here goes!

Caltech had an amazing faculty recruitment year last year!  Caltech’s claim to fame in computer science has always been pioneering disruptive new fields at the interface of computing — quantum computing, dna computing, sparsity and compressed sensing, algorithmic game theory, … Well, this year we began an institute-wide initiative to redouble our efforts on this front and it yielded big rewards.  We hired six new mid-career faculty at the interface of computer science!  That is an enormous number for Caltech, where the whole place only has 300 faculty…

Continue reading

The CMS PhD program

Back in January I wrote an excited post announcing our new Computing and Mathematical Sciences (CMS) PhD program.  Unfortunately, the approval did not happen in time for students to apply to it last year, but everything is up and running now, so we’re looking forward to seeing the first round of applicants this winter! (Though, we actually had 6 students who applied to other options last year switch into CMS for this fall — so the first class of CMS students is on-campus already!)

To prime the pump, I’m hoping that all the readers of this blog can spread the word about our exciting (& unique) new degree.  I know it’s what I wish I could’ve done when I was a grad student…  Please feel free to point prospective students to this post or to simply have them send me email.

Why did we start a new degree program?

We are in the midst of an unprecedented convergence of ideas & tools across disciplines.  This is happening among both traditionally “close” areas in the information sciences such as electrical engineering, computer science, and applied math as well as between the information sciences and seemingly disparate fields such as economics, biology, statistics, physics, and operations research.

Continue reading

Caltech CMS is hiring

I’m happy to announce that Caltech will be continuing its growth in Computing & Mathematical Sciences (CMS) this year.   The ad is now officially up. Please spread the word!

The search will be considering strong applications from anywhere within Applied Math and Computer Science, since Caltech likes to hire based on impressive and high-impact work, rather than a preconceived notion of what area is interesting at the moment. Quoting from the ad: “Research areas of particular interest include applied mathematics, computational science, as well as computing.”  You can’t get much broader than that!  (I personally really hope to see some strong candidates in statistics, networked/distributed systems, and security/privacy, so if you’re from any of those areas and are on the fence about applying — please do!)

Also, for those EE folks out there, don’t let the fact that your degree isn’t in CS or Applied Math deter you from applying.  Caltech has a very fuzzy interpretation of the boundaries between disciplines — many folks have joint appointments between CMS and EE, and many CMS faculty advise EE students (and vice versa).

Fall is here: Welcome new RSRGers

While other universities have been back in session for a while now, we’re just getting started here at Caltech.  Today begins our orientation week, so we have lots of new grads and postdocs showing up these days!

So, I wanted to use this post to give an official welcome to the new RSRG students (John Pang, Rachel Cummings, and Linqi Guo) and the new CMI postdocs (Quentin Berthet, Georgios Piliouras, Krishnamurthy Dvijotham, and Piyush Srivastava).  Welcome all!

And, we’re especially excited that we have three new faculty joining this fall: Yisong Yue, Thomas Vidick, and Victoria Kostina.  Yisong and Thomas are finally joining us after deferring for postdocs, while Victoria is fresh off of last year’s job market.  Being such a small place, we’re not used to having so many new faces join at once, so it’s quite exciting:  welcome Yisong, Thomas, and Victoria!

…and for those readers who are going on to the job market this year.  Don’t worry, we’ll be searching for new faculty again in the coming year too!