MIT Professor Arvind Chosen to Receive Second Distinguished Alumnus Award

Arvind, Johnson Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and President and founder of Sandburst Corporation, received the second biennial Distinguished Alumnus Award at the Open House and Technology Forum on October 19, 2001. In his acceptance speech, "Confessions of an Academic Entrepreneur", Professor Arvind spoke about his experience starting a new company and the differences between an academic and a business career.

Arvind is an IEEE Fellow and, in 1994, was awarded the IEEE Charles Babbage Outstanding Scientist Award.

Arvind's research interests have ranged over all aspects of parallel computing, including architectures and languages. He made major contributions to the development of dynamic dataflow architectures and the implicitly parallel languages Id and pH. He has recently published Implicit Parallel Program-ming in pH with Dr. Rishiyur S. Nikhil.

Arvind's current research uses a formalism known as Term Rewriting Systems (TRS's) for high-level specification and description of architectures and protocols. In the Computation Structures Group at MIT, which he heads, work is being done on using TRS's to design hardware more quickly and allow for exploration of designs. Tools are being developed to specify a high-level design, provide high-level debugging aids, generate simulators, provide automatic hardware synthesis, and provide support for computer aided verification.

This work led Arvind to found the Sandburst Corporation in 2000. The Sandburst Corporation is a fabless semiconductor company that uses the technology Arvind has been working on to develop VLSI solutions in the areas of data communications and networks. The promise is to provide these solutions within time frames significantly shorter than the current practice, thus reducing the time-to-market for equipment vendors. Arvind could have started a company to market the tools being developed, but decided instead to sell chip and keep the tools proprietary. Sandburst currently employs about 60 people.

While Arvind finds the work involved in being an entrepreneur interesting and satisfying, he can't imagine spending the next 25 years doing this, while he can imagine spending that long at MIT. He says that the academic life provides a kind of satisfaction that is hard to beat.

Arvind arrived in Minnesota from India in the fall of 1969. He had studied electrical engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, but had enjoyed computer science courses so much that he decided to apply for graduate studies in computer science. The University of Minnesota had a good reputation, and he was given a scholarship, so he chose Minnesota. Since the department of computer science was new and relatively small at that time he ended up doing half of his course work in electrical engineering and math.

He did thesis research in operating systems on mathematical models of program behavior under the supervision of Professor Richard Kain of electrical engineering. Later at the University of California, Irvine, he moved into computer architecture and languages. Arvind's interest in computer architecture was inspired by several courses that Professor Kain taught at the University of Minnesota.

Arvind has pleasant memories of his time as a graduate student here. The U was not a really stressful place, so he had time to learn about life, take a class in the humanities every quarter and make lasting friends. In addition to acquiring M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Computer Science in '72 and '73, Arvind had a good time during his four years in Minnesota.

-Bobbie Othmer