Career Profiles

Explore profiles of real professionals and students to learn how they got started, what they love about computing, and all about the fascinating work they do.
Amittai F. Aviram

Amittai F. Aviram

PhD candidate, Computer Science, Natick, United States


BA, English, Columbia University
PhD, English, Yale University
BS, Computer Science, Columbia University
PhD (pending), Computer Science, Yale University
“The theoretical and mathematical foundations of computer science are much more important, and much more interesting, than you might hear from a lot of CS people. This is especially the case if you are coming from a humanities or arts major. Also, CS gives you a lot of therapeutic practice in taking your emotions out of your problem-solving—thinking in a cool and rational way about problems and mistakes instead of getting upset about them.”

Currently, I'm working on my dissertation, so my schedule is free-form. I put many hours into programming and debugging, looking up error messages or techniques on the Web, and posting queries on Web forums. My research is in ensuring that parallel programs behave as expected. I am adding features to the system and preparing tests to show that my system is efficient enough to be practical.

I sometimes read and judge research papers for conferences. I work alone almost all the time, but I meet with my advisor regularly. I also take time for my partner, family, and friends, exercise every day, shop, and cook.

I’m pursuing a PhD. in computer science specializing in systems. I love systems because it puts theory and practice together so tightly. You get to build things that work (you hope!) to solve known and pressing real-world problems, and you get to work with the deep-down nitty-gritty of computing machines and programs. This gives you powerful insights into the whole continuum from high-level theory and abstraction all the way down to instructions and transistors, and back up.

In a databases graduate course, I learned about the B+ tree data structure for data storage and retrieval. To deepen my understanding, I decided to translate the algorithm in the book into a working C program. I continued to improve the design and add descriptive comments. I made the code public, with a link from the Wikipedia article on B+ trees. I've heard from people who have used the code to understand B+ trees, and develop real-world applications, some quite complicated, and my work was cited in at least one research article.

Amittai in San Francisco

Amittai with Bjarne Stroustrup

Amittai as MSR intern

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Explore profiles of real professionals and students to learn how they got started, what they love about computing, and all about the fascinating work they do.

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King's Quest
Roberta Williams

Video games immerse users in a world of high tech thrills, stunning visuals, unique challenges, and interactivity. They enable users to become a warrior princess or a gruesome ghoul, create a virtual persona, or even develop worlds that other gamers can play on. But before the games of today became reality, they were the dreams of a few innovative individuals.

Roberta Williams is considered one of the pioneers of gaming as we know it today. During the 80’s and 90’s along with husband Ken Williams through their company On-Line Systems, she developed some of the first graphical adventure games. These included such titles as Mystery House, Wizard and the Princess and the popular King’s Quest series. Williams also helped introduce more girls and women to the world of gaming by bringing games developed from a woman’s perspective to mainstream market.

James Dammann

If you have used a word processor today, moved your mouse on your laptop, dragged an object around on your smartphone, or highlighted a section of text on your tablet, you can thank Jim Dammann. In 1961 during his second year at IBM and just one year after completing his PhD, Jim created the concept of what today we all take for granted -- the cursor. This idea he documented in utilizing the cursor within word processing operations.

After retiring from IBM, Jim went on to inspire future generations of software engineers at Florida Atlantic University. His work there too demonstrated his creativity for he spent considerable effort enhancing their software engineering program by integrating ideas and feedback from local industries into the University curricular. Today, Jim lives in the Westlake Hills west of Austin Texas and spends most of his time in his art studio. He wrote and published The Opaque Decanter, a collection of poems about art, which provided a new view at part of art history.

RISC processor
John Hennessy
John Hennessy

Have you ever wondered how computers can execute complex commands in mere seconds? John Hennessy is a pioneer of reduced instruction set computing (RISC) architecture which employs small, highly-optimized sets of instructions to greatly enhance computer performance. He was instrumental in transferring the technology, specifically MIPS RISC architecture, to industry. He co-founded MIPS Technologies and co-authored the classic textbook with David A. Patterson, on Computer Architecture.

As Stanford faculty he rose to be the Chairman of the Computer Science Department, Dean of the School of Engineering, then Provost and finally the President of Stanford in 2000 (and till date). Hennessy holds a Master’s and Ph.D. in Computer Science from SUNY Stony Brook. He is an IEEE Fellow and was selected to receive the IEEE Medal of Honor in 2012. Hennessey also launched significant activities that helped to foster interdisciplinary research in the biosciences and bioengineering at Stanford.

Turing machine
Alan Mathison Turing
Alan Mathison Turing

Did you know that computing has been used in military espionage and has even influenced the outcome of major wars? Alan Mathison Turing designed the code breaking machine that enabled the deciphering of German communications during WWII. As per the words of Winston Churchill, this would remain the single largest contribution to victory. In addition, he laid the groundwork for visionary fields such as automatic computing engines, artificial intelligence and morphogenesis. Despite his influential work in the field of computing, Turing experienced extreme prejudice during his lifetime regarding his sexual orientation. There is no doubt that computers are ubiquitously part of our lives due to the infusion of Turing’s contributions.

Liz Gerber - Image credit Lisa Beth Anderson
Liz Gerber
Liz Gerber - Image credit Lisa Beth Anderson

Liz Gerber earned her MS and PhD in Product Design and Management Science and Engineering at Stanford. She specializes in design and human-computer interaction, particularly how social computing supports the innovation process. Her current research investigates crowd-funding as a mechanism for reducing disparities in entrepreneurship.
Gerber's work funded by the US National Science Foundation and the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance has appeared in peer-reviewed journals, including Transactions on Computer Human Interactions, Design Studies, and Organization Science.
As an award-winning teacher and researcher, Liz has touched the lives of more than 6,000 students through her teaching at Northwestern's Segal Design Institute and Stanford University's Hasso Plattner's Institute of Design and through her paradigm-shifting creation, Design for America, a national network of students using design to tackle social challenges.

Image credit - Lisa Beth Anderson

Image credits