Brown CS News

Four Brown CS Professors Receive Named Chairs

Click the links that follow for more news about Ugur Çetintemel, Carsten Eickhoff, Michael Littman, James Tompkin, and other recent accomplishments by Brown CS faculty.

Brown University’s Department of Computer Science (Brown CS) is pleased to announce that four of its faculty members — Ugur Çetintemel, Michael Littman, Carsten Eickhoff, and James Tompkin — received named chairs at the May, 2022 meeting of the Corporation of Brown University. James is the John E. Savage Assistant Professor of Computer Science, Michael is the University Professor of Computer Science, and Ugur is the Khosrowshahi University Professor of Computer Science. Carsten, who has a courtesy appointment with Brown CS, was appointed the Manning Assistant Professor of Medical Science.

The John E. Savage Assistant Professorship takes its name from Brown CS Professor John Savage, who co-founded the department in 1979 and served as its second chair from 1985 to 1991. The Khosrowshahi Professorship was established with support from alum Dara Khosrowshahi — currently the CEO of Uber — and Sydney Shapiro. The funds for the University Professorship were raised in honor of Brown CS Professor Andy van Dam, also a co-founder of the department, who has served on the faculty at Brown for 58 years. At Andy’s request, the University Professorship will not assume his name until after he retires from Brown.

“To be named as the Savage Chair at Brown has special meaning given that John co-founded the computer science department in 1979 — it’s an honour,” James says. “I hope to live up to his legacy of scholarship and institution building.”

James received his doctorate at University College London in 2013 and joined the Brown CS faculty in 2016. His research at the intersection of computer vision, computer graphics, and human-computer interaction helps develop new visual computing tools and experiences.

“The very first honor I got in computer science was winning the American Computer Science League competition as a high school student in the 80s,” Michael says. “My prize, which I still keep by my desk, was a copy of a graphics textbook co-authored by Andy van Dam. To receive an honorary chair position dedicated to Andy and his phenomenal contributions to the field feels quite poetic and deeply personally satisfying.”

Michael received his doctorate from Brown CS in 1996 and has been a member of the faculty since 2012. Currently co-directing Brown's Humanity-Centered Robotics Initiative, he works mainly in reinforcement learning, but has done research in machine learning, game theory, computer networking, partially observable Markov decision process solving, computer solving of analogy problems, and other areas.

Michael has earned multiple awards for teaching and research, including the IJCAI-22 John McCarthy Award, and has served on the editorial boards for the Journal of Machine Learning Research and the Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research. He served as General Chair of the International Conference on Machine Learning and Program Chair of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI) Conference in 2013. He's also a AAAI Fellow and was general chair of the Reinforcement Learning and Decision Making Conference, held this year in Providence. He is an ACM Fellow and was an AAAS Leshner Fellow; recently, he received the Artificial Intelligence Journal Classic Paper Award at the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence. Michael will serve as NSF’s division director for information and intelligent systems for the next two years.

“I am delighted to see the University continuing to recognize the contributions of our faculty with these prestigious honors,” Ugur says.

Ugur received his doctorate from the University of Maryland in 2001 and joined the Brown CS faculty the same year. His research is on the design and engineering of high-performance data systems that allow users to analyze large data sets interactively and easily. His recent work has focused on leveraging modern hardware features to speed up analytics, and using machine learning to build easy-to-use data tools for non-technical users. 

Ugur has received an NSF CAREER Award and an IEEE 10-year Test of Time Award in Data Engineering, among others. He was a co-founder and a senior architect of Streambase Inc., a company that specializes in high-performance data processing. He was also a Manning Assistant Professor of CS and served as the Chair of the Brown CS Department from 2014 to 2022.

Carsten, James, Michael, and Ugur join seven other holders of Brown CS endowed professorships: Maurice Herlihy (An Wang Professor of Computer Science), Sorin Istrail (Julie Nguyen Brown Professor of Computational and Mathematical Sciences and Professor of Computer Science), Ellie Pavlick (Manning Assistant Professor of Computer Science), Daniel Ritchie (Eliot Horowitz Assistant Professor of Computer Science), Roberto Tamassia (Plastech Professor of Computer Science), Eli Upfal (Rush Hawkins Professor of Computer Science), and Andries van Dam (Thomas J. Watson, Jr. University Professor of Education and Professor of Computer Science).

For more information, click the link that follows to contact Brown CS Communications Manager Jesse C. Polhemus.