Algorithms Leader Richard Karp to Be Director of Simons Institute

May 2, 2012
UC Berkeley receives $60 million grant from Simons Foundation to establish center

Richard Karp, Leader of ICSI's Algorithms GroupProfessor Richard Karp, leader of the ICSI Algorithms Group, will be the founding director of a theoretical computer science institute to be established at UC Berkeley with a $60 million gift from the Simons Foundation. The Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing will bring together top computer theorists and researchers from around the world to address challenges in areas that include social sciences, biology, physics, and economics. ICSI is among several research centers to be affiliated with the institute, which will begin operations in July.

The institute will host research on theoretical computer science and its outreach to other scientific fields in order to explore a wide range of issues such as how to fight diseases, model climate changes accurately, and discover new planets.

UC Berkeley was the only public university among the finalists for the Simons Foundation grant. Other finalists included Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

"We are very honored and proud that the Simons Foundation chose Berkeley as the location of its new institute and Richard Karp as its director. Dick, as the leader of ICSI's Algorithms Group, has been one of the pillars of our Institute,'' said ICSI Director Roberto Pieraccini. "With the Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing located on campus, ICSI and its affiliates will continue to collaborate with Dick and other bright minds in theoretical computer science.''

Karp will lead the institute with fellow professors Alistair Sinclair and Christos Papadimitriou.

Karp was also involved in establishing ICSI, serving on its first Board of Trustees and, with the exception of four years spent at the University of Washington, has led the Algorithms Group since 1988. He has received the Turing Award, the Kyoto Prize (often described as the Japanese Nobel), and the U.S. National Medal of Science. He is a professor of UC Berkeley's Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences Department with additional appointments in mathematics, bioengineering, and industrial engineering and operations research. He is also a member of the National Academies of Sciences and Engineering.

He has performed foundational work in computational complexity and, as noted in ACM's Turing Award citation of Karp, introduced the "now standard methodology for proving problems to be computationally difficult... Over the years, his work has focused on algorithmic answers to biological problems, heuristic algorithms, and problems related to machine learning."

The Simons Foundation, based in New York City, has given hundreds of millions of dollars to universities and other institutes for research in mathematics and the basic sciences since its incorporation in 1994.

Read more about the Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing in the New York Times. Read more about Karp on our blog.