Colloquium To Join Computing, Science

Engineering School and computing initiative to offer

Harvard’s Initiative in Innovative Computing and School of Engineering and Applied Sciences recently announced the launch of a joint colloquium series that will bring together those interested in computing and the sciences.

Each semester, the colloquium will feature two speakers who will discuss issues related to both fields, according to a press release issued last week.

“There are clearly a lot of connections between the interests of the IIC and the things that are happening in comp sci in SEAS, and the challenge has been to get people to sit down and engage in conversations,” said SEAS Computer Science professor Matthew Welsh.

Executive Director of the IIC Rosalind Reid said that the seminar series—which will not be united by an overarching theme—will feature experts in computing and the sciences who will discuss an “eclectic” mix of issues relevant to those fields.

“We’re hoping to bring speakers to campus who have cross-cutting messages and interests that span the sciences and computer science,” Reid said.

Asked about how the colloquium came about, Reid said that it stemmed from discussions between IIC Director and Applied Physics and Physics professor Efthimios Kaxiras and SEAS Associate Dean for Computer Science and Engineering J. Gregory Morrisett.

This semester’s speakers include Alfred A. Rizzi, the lead robotics scientist at Boston Dynamics, and Jennifer T. Chayes, the managing director of the new Microsoft Research New England laboratory in Cambridge.

The first seminar on Oct. 8 will be led by Rizzi, who has worked extensively on the control of robotic movements. It will focus on a discussion about BigDog, a quadruped robot with advanced motor skills that can “walk, run, climb, carry loads, resist kicks, and negotiate rough terrain,” Reid said.

“[Rizzi’s] a really famous person in this area, and so I think a lot of people are excited to hear him speak,” Welsh said.

The second seminar will be held on Nov. 20, but additional information, such as the issues that Chayes will address, has yet to be released.

Reid and the other colloquium organizers said they anticipate that students will find the seminars beneficial.

“I think the students will enjoy the speakers because they’ll bring some novel types of messages to the campus,” Reid said. “It will be of particular interest to students with interdisciplinary interests.”

Both Rizzi and Chayes were chosen for the colloquium series by the IIC. The IIC and SEAS plan on alternating choice of seminar leaders, with SEAS picking next semester’s speakers.