Brown University’s Department of Computer Science (BrownCS) alumni continue their tradition of achievement, with Jack Stankovic PhD '79 about to receive the honorary degree of Doctor of the University from University of York, U.K.
Now a professor at the University of Virginia, Stankovic was one of the first graduates of the BrownCS PhD program. “I loved Brown from the start,” he remembers. “The hands-on interaction with faculty was remarkable.” Asked if his early work here planted the seeds of his current research into real-time and cyber-physical computing, Jack says, “Yes and no. My thesis was more about single-processor systems, but I worked with Andy van Dam on one of the first-ever workshops on distributed systems, which led to the International Conference on Distributed Computing.”
Andy smiles to remember their collaboration on the Brown University Graphics System (BUGS) at a time when 64k of memory was considered to be state of the art: “We were very eager to build our own systems in those days, and BUGS was a heterogeneous multicomputer system connected to a mainframe, fully programmable through firmware. Distributed computing was still a very new field, and Jack did excellent work. He was my right-hand man for a workshop that was very early in the development of the field and had all the leading figures speak. Even the real-time transcription of the talks was cutting-edge, using FRESS, one of the first hypertext word processors.”
In addition to real-time and cyber-physical computing, Jack’s current research includes wireless sensor networks and wireless energy and health applications. “As sensors became prevalent,” he explains, “I became interested in home healthcare, in allowing the elderly to live at home as long as possible, despite problems such as dementia or epilepsy. I’m always looking for real applications to drive fundamental research.”
Reflecting on the genesis of the honorary doctorate, Stankovic says, “York has some of the world’s best faculty in real-time computing. I’ve lectured there twice, but this honor was completely unexpected.” Van Dam is unsurprised: “Jack is hardworking, dedicated and passionate. He has strong opinions, but he’s willing to listen. He has good taste in problem selection and real leadership qualities.”
“I’m truly grateful,” Jack concludes. “Throughout my career, I’ve tried to use computing to understand and interact with the real world, and this Honorary Doctorate is an unexpected and intriguing recognition of that. I’m quite proud.” Andy van Dam feels a similar pride at his colleague’s success: “The layered architectures we now take for granted, with APIs on the top, didn’t arrive spontaneously. Jack was one of the pioneers. It’s a delight to see him become one of the top handful of people in a huge field.”
A pioneer first in real-time computing, and now the smart house, Jack explains that even broader applications for his work lie just ahead. We congratulate him on this latest honor as the field of cyber-physical computing expands from smart buildings to smart cities and ultimately, a smart world.