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CS Professor To Leave Harvard For Google

Recently tenured CS professor resigns his post to work at Google

Computer Science professor Matthew D. Welsh, who was tenured this past summer, announced on Monday that he will be resigning from Harvard.

Currently on sabbatical at Google, Welsh wrote on his blog that his decision to leave was informed mainly by a change in “priorities in life,” and that he is now enjoying working on what he feels are larger problems than what he faced as a professor.

“In many ways, working at Google is realizing the dream I’ve had of building big systems my entire career,” he said on his blog.

Welsh wrote in his post that in computer science academia “the very best possible outcome for your research is that someone at Google or Microsoft or Facebook reads one of your papers, gets inspired by it, and implements something like it internally.”

Welsh added, “At Google, I have a much more direct route from idea to execution to impact.”

Welsh had blogged this past May on his uncertainty about being a professor, writing that despite the benefits of working with the “next generation,” overlooked drawbacks—such as constantly finding funding for research, a consistent flow of work, and an incessant stream of faculty meetings—proved to be unattractive elements of the job.

“[Being a professor] is certainly not for everybody,” Welsh wrote in May. “It remains to be seen if it is even for me.”

Welsh refused to comment further.

Computer Science Area Dean Michael D. Mitzenmacher said he disagreed with Welsh’s perspective of academia, though he wished Welsh all the best.

“I don’t think that’s how I feel about my work, and I don’t think that’s how other professors feel either,” Mitzenmacher said.

In a guest post on Welsh’s blog, Mitzenmacher outlined the many reasons why he enjoys being a professor, listing professional freedom, intellectual exposure, and challenging opportunities.

Harvard students lamented Welsh’s departure, saying that his dynamism in the classroom energized many to continue to pursue Computer Science.

“He made the class interesting, engaging,” said Austin P. Donisan ’11, who was a student in Welsh’s Computer Science 61: “Systems Programming and Machine Organization.”

“His departure will certainly be a loss.”

Stefan K. Muller ’12, who also took Welsh’s class on systems, agreed that Welsh brought great energy and wit to his lectures.

“He’s definitely one of the most engaging professors that I’ve had at Harvard, and it’s a shame to see him not use that in the future,” Muller said. “Selfishly, I really am sorry to see him go from the CS faculty. There’s a wry sense of humor that he brings, and that’s lost in a lot of other classes.”

—Staff writer Gautam S. Kumar can be reached at gkumar@college.harvard.edu.

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