Sunday, February 05, 2006

DIMACS is looking for an Associate Director. This is a great time to reflect on the role of DIMACS, how it has changed over time, and what it should be over the next few years. I "grew up" in early 90's when DIMACS had terrific workshops in Theoretical Computer Science (TCS), a thriving visitors program and was a hub of activities. As a postdoc later, I became a minor part of the transition when DIMACS evolved to study "applications" of TCS to Computational Biology, a special focus organized by Martin Farach-Colton and others in '94. DIMACS helped several researchers in the fundamental algorithms area embrace the concepts and problems in Biology and bringing our way of asking questions and our discrete math tools to that area. Richa Agarwala, Vineet Bafna, Dannie Durand, Gene Myers, Pavel Pevzner, R. Ravi, Steve Skiena, (the fantastic) Mike Waterman, and many others visited DIMACS at that time, and in ways small and large, DIMACS contributed to the launching of the Computational Biology area (with the emergence of "Bioinformatics" that happened later) that has been tremendously successful in producing science and scientists, algorithms and tools, as well as companies and careers. Partly driven by this success and by funding, DIMACS has applied this formula to networking, epidemiology, privacy, data analysis and socio-economics since then, and now has workshops in adverse events reporting, biosurveillance, etc. I wonder if DIMACS is serving the DM/TCS community with this trend. (I think of myself as an applied algorithmicist and I become easily engaged in new applications, trying to find algorithmic problems in them. So, I can imagine being interested in some of these workshops, though honestly, I rarely go to them due to my quantum state of existence.)


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