History + Facts

Computing + Mathematical Sciences emerged in late 2009 under the aegis of the Engineering and Applied Science Division Chair Ares Rosakis from three academic options offered in the Division: Applied + Computational Mathematics (ACM) founded in 1967 by Prof. Gerald Whitham, Computer Science (CS) created in 1975 by Profs. Ivan Sutherland and Carver Mead, and Control + Dynamical Systems (CDS) founded in 1993 by Profs. John Doyle, Manfred Morari, Richard Murray and Stephen Wiggins. Years of collaboration between these three options and the increasing importance of cross-discipline expertise naturally led to the idea of merging these entities into a single department, where students can soak up each other's knowledge while refining their research focus.

World-class faculty and student body

The department currently counts in its ranks researchers who have been recognized with awards from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), and the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), and various international foundations and societies: CMS includes two members of the National Academy of Engineers, three MacArthur fellows, one member of the National Academy of Science, three Sloan Fellows, two American Academy Of Arts And Sciences members, and one Foreign Member of the Royal Society. Our students shine at the international level year after year as well, as regularly demonstrated by our ACM programming team rankings, best paper awards at conferences, and fellowships from companies (Microsoft, NVidia, Google, etc), the National Science Foundation, the Computing Research Association, and the Hertz foundation. Add to the mix that CMS is located on the campus of the California Institute of Technology, home to more than thirty Nobel laureates over the years and consistently ranked among the top universities (recent ranking: #1 amongst world engineering universities and #2 amongst all world universities as published by the Times Higher Education in 2010), and you get a good idea of our work environment and what it has to offer.

Innovation throughout the years

The CMS department has also seen several pioneering efforts. Most notably, CMS researchers have developed the first asynchronous microprocessor, built the Touchstone Delta massively-parallel supercomputer with Intel, have formulated the radiosity equation and introduced hair and texture rendering (both items being now ubiquitous in computer-generated movies), have introduced compressed sensing tools, developed the fastTCP protocol, and introduced DNA origami. Our members have even broken several world records, including in inter-continent network speed (several years in a row) and in 3D mesh compression rates.

Fast TCP protocol (commercialized by FastSoft), Caltech, 2003

Rendering equationRendered furFirst asynchronous microprocessorIntel Touchstone Delta computer system3D geometry compressionDNA origamil1-magic for compressive sensing
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A few recent CMS alumni who became faculty

Dr. Domitilla Del Vecchio, CDS PhD, now an Assistant Professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Dr. Laurent Demanet, ACM PhD, now an Assistant Professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Dr. Eitan Grinspun, CS PhD, now an Associate Professor, Columbia University
Dr. Jason Marden, CMS Postdoc, now an Assistant Professor, University of Colorado at Boulder
Dr. Sayan Mitra, CMS Postdoc, now an Assistant Professor, Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Dr. Antonis Papachristodoulou, CDS PhD, now a Departmental Lecturer, University of Oxford, UK
Dr. Ao Tang, CS PhD, now an Assistant Professor, Cornell University

A few recent CMS alumni who went to industry

Agostino Capponi, Goldman Sachs (working on credit risk modeling after a PhD in CS)
Luke Durant, NVidia (working on next-gen GPUs after majoring in CS)
Alex Fax, Northrop Grumann (director of positioning, navigation and timing solutions after a PhD in CDS)
Maria Gutowski, NVidia (systems software engineer after majoring in CS)
John Monro, Areté Associates (senior scientist after a PhD in ACM)
Mark Meyer, Pixar Animation Studios (working on graphics research after a PhD in CS)
Stephen Prajna, Credit Suisse (quantitative analyst after a PhD in CDS)
Eve Schooler, Intel (principal engineer after a PhD in CS)
Shripad Thite, Google (working as a software engineer and researcher after a postdoctoral stay in CMS)
John Thornley, D.E. Shaw (senior vice president after a PhD in CS)
Ke Wang, Exxon Mobil (working in the Upstream Research team after a PhD in ACM)
David Wei, Facebook (working on web apps and performance after a PhD in CS)

Selected former faculty

Jim Kajiya, Herbert Keller †, Donald Knuth, Jerrold E. Marsden †, Carver Mead, Philip Saffman †, Ivan Sutherland, Gerald Whitham

Notable Caltech alumni who impacted Computer Science

Sabeer Bhatia (of Hotmail fame), Fernando Corbató (of Multics fame), Bill Dally (of Computer Architecture and NVidia fame), Juris Hartmanis (of complexity theory fame), David Kirk (of NVidia fame), John McCarthy (of LISP fame), Cleve Moler (of Matlab fame), Gordon Moore (of Intel fame), Philip M. Neches (of Teradata fame), William Shockley (of Silicon Valley fame), Robert Tarjan (of graph algorithms and Fibonacci heaps fame), Stephen Wolfram (of Mathematica fame).

Notable Caltech alumni who impacted Applied Mathematics

Benoit Mandelbrot† (father of fractal geometry), Robert C. Merton (Nobel prize winner in Economics), Peter Shor (inventor of the quantum algorithm for factoring).

Notable companies started from CMS research

Myricom; iSpheres Corp. (now part of Avaya); Fulcrum Microsystems (now part of Intel); Achronix; FastSoft;