Three EECS professors join leadership team

The Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) has announced the appointment of two new associate department heads, and the creation of the new role of associate department head for strategic directions. 

Professors Saman Amarasinghe and Joel Voldman have been named as new associate department heads, effective immediately, says EECS Department Head Asu Ozdaglar. Ozdaglar became department head on Jan. 1, replacing Anantha Chandrakasan, who is now dean of the School of Engineering. Professor Nancy Lynch will be the inaugural holder of the new position of associate department head for strategic directions, overseeing new academic and research initiatives.

“I am thrilled to be starting my own new role in collaboration with such a strong leadership team,” says Ozdaglar, who is also the Joseph F. and Nancy P. Keithley Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. “All three are distinguished scholars and dedicated educators whose experience will contribute greatly to shaping the department’s future.” 

Saman Amarasinghe leads the Commit compiler research group at the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL). His group focuses on programming languages and compilers that maximize application performance on modern computing platforms. It has developed the Halide, TACO, Simit, StreamIt, StreamJIT, PetaBricks, MILK, Cimple, and GraphIt domain-specific languages and compilers, which all combine language design and sophisticated compilation techniques to deliver unprecedented performance for targeted application domains such as image processing, stream computations, and graph analytics.

Amarasinghe also pioneered the application of machine learning for compiler optimization, from Meta optimization in 2003 to OpenTuner extendable autotuner today. He was the co-leader of the Raw architecture project with EECS Professor and edX CEO Anant Agarwal. Recently, his work received a best-paper award at the 2017 Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Object-Oriented Programming, Systems, Languages, and Applications (OOPSLA) conference and a best student-paper award at the 2017 Big Data conference.

Amarasinghe was the founder of Determina Inc., a startup based on computer security research pioneered in his MIT research group and later acquired by VMware. He is the faculty director for MIT Global Startup Labs, whose summer programs in 17 countries have helped launch more than 20 startups.

A faculty member since 1997, Amarasinghe served as an EECS education officer and currently chairs the department’s computer science graduate admissions committee. He developed the popular class 6.172 (Performance Engineering of Software Systems) with Charles Leiserson, the Edwin Sibley Webster Professor of EECS.  Recently, he has created individualized software project classes such as the Open Source Software Project Lab, the Open Source Entrepreneurship Lab, and the Bring Your Own Software Project Lab.

He received a bachelor’s degree in EECS from Cornell University, and a master’s degree and PhD in electrical engineering from Stanford University. Amarasinghe succeeds Lynch, who had been an associate department head since September 2016.   

Joel Voldman is a professor in EECS and a principal investigator in the Research Laboratory of Electronics (RLE) and the Microsystems Technology Laboratories (MTL).

He received a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and SM and PhD degrees in electrical engineering from MIT. During his time at MIT, he developed biomedical microelectromechanical systems for single-cell analysis. 

Afterward, he was a postdoctoral associate in George Church’s lab at Harvard Medical School, where he studied developmental biology. He returned to MIT as an assistant professor in EECS in 2001. He was awarded the NBX Career Development Chair in 2004, became an associate professor in 2006, and was promoted to professor in 2013.

Voldman’s research focuses on developing microfluidic technology for biology and medicine, with an emphasis on cell sorting and stem cell biology. He has developed a host of technologies to arrange, culture, and sort diverse cell types, including immune cells, endothelial cells, and stem cells. Current areas of research include recapitulating the induction of atherosclerosis on a microfluidic chip, and using microfluidic tools to study how immune cells decide to attack tumor cells. He is also interested in translational medical work, such as developing point-of-care drop-of-blood assays for proteins and rapid microfluidic tests for immune cell activation for the treatment of sepsis. 

In addition, Voldman has co-developed two introductory EECS courses. One class, 6.03 (Introduction to EECS via Medical Technology), uses medical devices to introduce EECS concepts such as signal processing and machine learning. The other, more recent class, 6.S08/6.08 (Interconnected Embedded Systems ), uses the Internet of Things to introduce EECS concepts such as system partitioning, energy management, and hardware/software co-design. 

Voldman’s awards and honors include a National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER award, an American Chemical Society (ACS) Young Innovator Award, a Bose Fellow grant, MIT’s Jamieson Teaching Award, a Louis D. Smullin (’39) Award for Teaching Excellence from EECS, a Frank Quick Faculty Research Innovation Fellowship from EECS, an IEEE/ACM Best Advisor Award, and awards for posters and presentations at international conferences. Voldman succeeds Ozdaglar as ADH.

Nancy Lynch, the NEC Professor of Software Science and Engineering, also heads the Theory of Distributed Systems research group in CSAIL. 

She is known for her fundamental contributions to the foundations of distributed computing. Her work applies a mathematical approach to explore the inherent limits on computability and complexity in distributed systems. Her best-known research is the FLP impossibility result for distributed consensus in the presence of process failures. Other research includes the I/O automata system modeling frameworks. Her recent work focuses on wireless network  algorithms and biological distributed algorithms.

Lynch has written or co-written hundreds of research articles. She is the author of the textbook “Distributed Algorithms” and co-author of “Atomic Transactions” and “The Theory of Timed I/O Automata.” She is an ACM Fellow, a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a member of the National Academy of Science and the National Academy of Engineering.  She has received the Dijkstra Prize twice, the van Wijngaarden prize, the Knuth Prize, the Piore Prize, and the Athena Prize.

A member of the MIT faculty since 1982, Lynch has supervised 30 PhD students and similar numbers of master’s-degree candidates and postdoctoral associates, many of whom have themselves become research leaders. She received a bachelor’s degree from Brooklyn College and a PhD from MIT, both in mathematics.


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