Berkeley chosen as home for computer theory institute

Thanks to a generous grant of $60 million from the Simons Foundation, UC Berkeley is poised to become the worldwide center for theoretical computer science.

The new multi-disciplinary Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing will convene top researchers from around the globe to explore deep unsolved problems about the nature and limits of computation, and contribute algorithmic tools and methods to virtually every area of scientific endeavor.

A deeper understanding of theoretical computing will impact all aspects of our everyday lives. The new institute will offer scientists a computational lens with which to explore problems ranging from fighting diseases and creating more accurate climate change models to making social and commercial interactions on the Internet more secure and efficient. The insights gained in this way will often reflect back to the theory of computation, opening new directions and advancing our understanding of fundamental theoretical issues. Through its research and programs, the institute will develop the theory of computing as a core intellectual discipline for students and will act as a magnet for increased collaboration among a global network of researchers.

Richard Karp, one of the college’s most distinguished faculty, was named the founding director of the institute. He has received the Turing Award, the Kyoto Prize and the National Medal of Science for groundbreaking contributions to theoretical computer science. He holds faculty appointments in four departments at Cal–EECS, BioE, Mathematics and IEOR. Professors Alistair Sinclair (EECS and Statistics) and Christos Papadimitriou (EECS, IEOR and Mathematics) will be the institute’s founding associate director and founding senior scientist, respectively.

The institute’s goal is to allow the theory of computing to explore the methodology of the physical, biological and social sciences; and by doing so reveal new insights into the theory of computing itself. We were chosen as the institute’s home after a highly competitive and selective national search. The reason, said Marilyn and Jim Simons, the co-founders of the Simons Foundation, was Berkeley’s “outstanding leadership and scientific ambience.”

The new institute, to be located on campus in Calvin Hall, builds on Berkeley’s decades-old reputation of innovation and achievement in theoretical computer science research and scholarship. It will enable us to establish new partnerships and new frontiers of investigation into some of the most pressing and urgent problems of science and technology.

With great enthusiasm and anticipation, I look forward to the groundbreaking work at the new Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing. 

As always, I invite your thoughts and ideas,

S. Shankar Sastry
Dean and Roy W. Carlson Professor of Engineering
Director, Blum Center for Developing Economies
Email Dean Sastry