In the News

January 3, 2017

ICS welcomes new dean

Q&A with Marios Papaefthymiou, the new ICS dean known as a successful entrepreneur and expert in the design of energy-efficient, high-performance computers.

Marios Papaefthymiou came to UC Irvine in January 2017 as a professor of computer science and the Ted & Janice Smith Family Foundation dean of the Donald Bren School of Information & Computer Sciences (ICS). Before coming to UC Irvine, Papaefthymiou served as chair of computer science and engineering and professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of Michigan, where he was a longtime advocate for innovation in education. Prior to his appointment as chair at Michigan, he was the director of the university’s Advanced Computer Architecture Laboratory for 11 years. He also spent three years teaching at Yale. His research addresses a broad spectrum of problems in computer design with an emphasis on architectures and design methodologies for energy-efficient, high-performance computers.

As an expert in energy-efficient computing, Papaefthymiou has authored more than 100 publications on the subject and is co-founder and Chief Scientist of Cyclos Semiconductor, a startup specializing in energy-efficient chips for power-critical applications. His many accolades include a Young Investigator Award from the Army Research Office, a CAREER award from the National Science Foundation and several IBM Faculty Partnership Awards. Papaefthymiou grew up in Athens, Greece, and studied for two years at the National Technical University of Athens before transferring to Caltech, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. He then went on to earn his doctorate and master’s degrees in electrical engineering and computer science from MIT. Dean Papaefthymiou kindly agreed to answer some questions about himself and his vision before arriving in Irvine.

What interested you most about becoming dean of ICS?
As an independent school focused on computing, ICS is strategically positioned to lead in the exploration and dissemination of the information and computing technologies that are transforming our society. With informatics, computer science and statistics under the same roof, ICS provides the broad foundation for research and education programs in core computing technologies as well as their application in numerous domains. It is therefore in an ideal position to leverage the intellectual diversity of the UC Irvine campus for the advancement of the arts, business, economics, education, engineering, healthcare and science through innovations in information technology. Furthermore, ICS is presented with tremendous opportunities for transferring these advancements to society through the expansive entrepreneurial ecosystem in Southern California.

What’s your vision for ICS, and what do you hope to achieve as dean?
I envision a further elevated ICS that will serve as a national resource for the advancement of our society through innovations in information technology. To that end, I expect ICS to place an increased emphasis on leading large-scale research centers and national-level initiatives in vital and transformative areas of information technology, such as, for example, data science, cybersecurity and digital healthcare. I also expect ICS to accelerate the transfer of research findings to our society through entrepreneurial activities led by its faculty and students. Furthermore, I see ICS leading new education initiatives in emerging areas of information technology, and enriching the student experience by building on an already strong tradition of innovation and vision in education as exemplified by the recently launched program in data science, one of the first in the nation. Reflecting the pervasiveness and broad reach of information technology, ICS will pursue this vision of excellence and national prominence while further strengthening its efforts to provide an inclusive and accessible environment for learning and discovery. An essential element for the realization of this vision will be the further growth of ICS through the development of additional resources for expanding its teaching and research programs.

Please tell us a little about your personal research interests.
For the past several years, I have been exploring design technologies for building energy-efficient computers. My research and, subsequently, my startup, Cyclos, have focused on improving energy efficiency in high-performance processors such as the ones found in data centers. Recently, my attention has turned to design technologies for building secure and energy-efficient low-end processors, such as the ones found in embedded computers for the emerging “Internet of Things.” These processors are often deployed in the wild, running off a small battery or by scavenging energy from the environment, and can be exposed to a variety of security attacks. My research focuses on technologies that have the potential to achieve order-of-magnitude improvements in the security and energy efficiency of these processors, extending battery lifetime from days to months, enabling additional features within a constrained power envelope, and significantly decreasing their vulnerability to security threats.

How has being an entrepreneur helped you in academia?
In my view, the lessons from my entrepreneurial experiences have been invaluable complements to my academic pursuits. They have enriched my classroom teaching and graduate student mentoring, allowing me to offer a broader perspective beyond the narrow technical aspects of a topic. They have also enabled me to serve as a mentor for colleagues and students with entrepreneurial aspirations or startups underway. I look forward to working with the UC Irvine community to further entrepreneurial opportunities for ICS students and faculty.

What aspect of technology are you most passionate about at this point in time?
The potential of information technology to transform healthcare. From sophisticated algorithms that analyze genomic information to help customize therapies for individual patients, to smart devices that monitor patients away from the hospital and suggest lifestyle improvements in real time or predict an impending heart attack and remotely alert their attending physicians, information technology stands to vastly improve the quality and reduce the cost of healthcare. In my opinion, the impact of information technology on healthcare will be far greater than its impact on any other aspect of our lives so far.

In closing, how would you like to see our alumni and other community members be more engaged with ICS?
I would like to promote a spirit of lifelong engagement between ICS and its alumni. ICS can draw tremendous strengths from its alumni base in many different ways. Alums can serve as role models, engaging with our current students through campus visits and talks; as mentors, meeting with ICS students to offer technical or career advice; as ambassadors, meeting with prospective students to encourage them to join ICS; as recruiters, looking to hire students from a program they understand and appreciate; as a peer network, connecting with fellow alums to share experiences and opportunities; and as a source of feedback, helping ICS with the strategic targeting of its resources. Of course, many of these modes of engagement apply to the broader community around ICS. My plan is for ICS to further embrace its environs through corporate engagement, entrepreneurial undertakings and community outreach, projecting its significance as an invaluable resource for Southern California and indeed the nation.

The above interview was published in the Fall 2016 ICS Annual Report.
ICS welcomes new dean


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