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SEAS Hires Seven New Computer Science Professors

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The Computer Science department appointed seven new faculty members in a cluster hire, the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences announced Monday.

The new faculty members will join the SEAS campus in Allston between January 2022 and September 2023 to strengthen Harvard’s work in “emerging frontiers” of computer science, including artificial intelligence, machine learning, quantum engineering, and data science.

“The additions will strengthen and diversify research, teaching, and scholarship in Harvard’s highly interdisciplinary program,” the SEAS statement read.

Computer Science Area Chair Eddie Kohler said the new appointments were not part of a coordinated effort per se, but that the added expertise in AI and machine learning will further Harvard’s exploration of emerging fields in computer science.

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“[The new appointments] are just an awesome group of individuals in different areas that all happen to be arriving in pretty close proximity to one another,” he said. “We think that together, they’re going to really help bring the most current AI and ML research to Harvard students and help Harvard impact the field more broadly.”

SEAS had already announced one member of the cluster hire, Fernanda Viégas, in November 2020. Viegas, who will join the department in spring 2022, formerly worked at Google, where she co-led the company’s “People + AI Research” initiative.

Another faculty member, Yannai A. Gonczarowski, spent six years at Google as a software engineer and joined this fall as an assistant professor in both Computer Science and Economics.

Gonczarowski, who holds both a Ph.D. in Mathematics and Computer Science and a M.Sc. in classical singing from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, focuses his research on the interaction between economics, computer science, and game theory.

Sham Kakade, a machine learning expert at the University of Washington, will begin in January 2022 as the Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Science with a joint appointment in the Department of Statistics.

“We can really make a push to more interesting AI-related goals because the bottom line is, the world’s a pretty exciting place right now,” he said.

Also joining in January as an assistant professor is Anurag Anshu, who is currently a postdoctoral student at the University of California, Berkeley. Anshu, who works in quantum computing, will be an addition to Harvard’s new program in quantum science and engineering, which SEAS announced in April.

Anshu said he believes Harvard “appreciates the depth of quantum computing – they appreciate the theory behind it.”

The two other new appointments, Sitan Chen and David Alvarez-Melis, also do research in theoretical and applied machine learning, respectively.

Like Anshu, Chen, who will come to Harvard in fall 2023 as an assistant professor, is also a postdoctoral student at Berkeley. His work focuses on the intersection of machine learning and theoretical computer science.

Alvarez-Melis, who specializes in applied machine learning, will join both the Computer Science and Applied Mathematics departments. His work involves making machine learning more relevant to natural and medical sciences, among other applications with more limited data.

Jonathan Frankle, who recently finished his Ph.D. at MIT, will also join as an assistant professor of Computer Science starting in fall 2023. Frankle works on understanding the behavior of neural networks, which he said are “a hot thing in computer science these days.”

Frankle said his new position at Harvard has a special significance after his past rejections by Harvard.

“Harvard has rejected me three times now at various points in my career — for undergrad and twice for grad school, so it's nice to get the last laugh on that,” Frankle said.

Frankle added that he is excited to join Harvard to do research in a young but rapidly developing field that he recognizes has been “a big area of interest.”

“I want everyone to know that a lot of exciting folks are coming to join, exciting folks are already there, and we hope to build something really great,” he said.

—Staff writer Natalie L. Kahn can be reached at natalie.kahn@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @natalielkahn.

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