Date Posted: 8/14/2020

The Department of Computer Science at Cornell University is very pleased to announce—and welcome—an incoming roster of new faculty. The eight members noted below will be joining us this Fall and next Fall in Ithaca and New York City. We look forward to their integration into the life of the department. Each of them has taken the time to say something about their work and what they hope to contribute to Cornell CS upon their arrival.


Noah Stephens-Davidowitz, Ithaca, starting Fall 2020, Assistant Professor

Noah’s research primarily uses the tools of theoretical computer science to answer fundamental questions about the security of widely deployed real-world cryptography, particularly post-quantum lattice-based cryptography. He is also interested in theoretical computer science, cryptography, and geometry more broadly. He received his Ph.D. from NYU, advised by Professors Oded Regev and Yevgeniy Dodis, and became a postdoc at Princeton’s computer science department and a visiting researcher at the Institute for Advanced Study’s math department—both as part of the Simons Collaboration on Algorithms and Geometry. He was also a postdoctoral researcher at MIT’s computer science department, supervised by Vinod Vaikuntanathan. Before arriving at Cornell, he was a fellow at the Simons Institute in Berkeley as part of the program Lattices: Algorithms, Complexity, and Cryptography. He's excited to teach cryptography, and says "I'm very much looking forward to the start of the semester and getting to know Cornell's excellent students."


Anke van Zuylen, Ithaca, starting Fall 2020, Senior Lecturer

Anke’s research interests are in discrete optimization with a focus on designing and analyzing algorithms for problems arising in areas such as network design, logistics, computational biology and information science. Anke will return to Ithaca and Cornell after a twelve-year odyssey that took her to China, Germany, and Virginia. She received a Ph.D. in Operations Research from Cornell in 2008 advised by David Williamson. She then spent two years as a postdoctoral researcher with Andrew Yao at the Institute for Theoretical Computer Science of Tsinghua University in Beijing, China. She was the first recipient of the Lise Meitner Award Fellowship for Excellent Women in Computer Science, spending the next two years as a postdoctoral fellow with Kurt Mehlhorn at the Max Planck Institute for Informatics in Saarbruecken, Germany. At both institutes she did research and developed and taught courses at the undergraduate and graduate level. Immediately prior to joining Cornell CS, she was an associate professor in the Mathematics Department at William & Mary where she taught in the undergraduate mathematics curriculum and in the graduate program in Computational Operations Research. She looks forward to teaching Discrete Structures in Fall 2020, and says: "I am thrilled to be back at Cornell, even if it has only been via zoom so far! Despite the challenges that covid-19 is bringing to the upcoming academic year, I am looking forward to finding new ways to have fun and meaningful interactions with the students and other faculty."


Abe Davis, Fall 2020, Ithaca, Assistant Professor

Abe’s research involves graphics, vision, and Human-Computer Interaction and he has a keen interest in converting research findings to everyday applications, such as photography, sound, and video. He completed his Ph.D. at MIT in 2016, where he was advised by Fr├ędo Durand, and later became a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford University working with Maneesh Agrawala. His research interests sit at the intersection of different fields. For example, in recent years, progress on foundational problems in computer vision and graphics has opened up a whole landscape of opportunities for imaging and computation. On this development, Abe said: “I’m really excited to explore that landscape with the students and other faculty at Cornell.”


Wen Sun, Fall 2020, Ithaca, Assistant Professor

Wen’s key research is in Machine Learning and Reinforcement Learning (RL), and much of his work focuses on designing algorithms for efficient sequential decision making, understanding exploration and exploitation tradeoff, and leveraging expert demonstrations to overcome exploration. He received a Ph.D. in Robotics from Carnegie Mellon University where he was advised by Drew Bagnell. During the 2019-20 academic year, he was a postdoctoral researcher at Microsoft Research in New York City working on several aspects of RL including representation learning in RL, policy gradient methods, and nonlinear control.  At Cornell, he looks forward to teaching courses on machine learning and artificial intelligence. This Fall, he is excited to teach a new course on Foundations of Reinforcement Learning which aims to cover a diverse set of topics including (but not limited to) planning, adaptive control, imitation learning, and sample efficient exploration. He says: “I’m excited to join Cornell as it is a pioneer in machine learning and AI,” and adds that “I will significantly broaden my research horizon by collaborating with amazing students and faculties at Cornell.”


Owolabi Legunsen, Fall 2020, Ithaca, Assistant Professor

Owolabi’s research interests are in software engineering and applied formal methods with a focus on software testing and runtime verification. He received his Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, co-advised by Darko Marinov and Grigore Rosu. Before that, he received an M.S. in Software Engineering from the University of Texas at Dallas. Owolabi decided to pursue graduate studies while working as a software developer in Nigeria, where he had obtained his B.S. degree. His work experience inspires his research: he aims to find disciplined approaches to solving challenging problems that developers face in producing high-quality software. At Cornell, Owolabi will carry out research that can enable developers to use runtime verification and other formal methods to find bugs moreefficiently and effectively during everyday software development. He says: “I look forward to working with the faculty and students at Cornell and to teaching courses on runtime verification and software testing.”


Tapo Bhattacharjee, Ithaca, starting Fall 2021, Assistant Professor

Tapomayukh’s fundamental research question is how to leverage robot-world physical interactions in unstructured human environments to perform relevant activities of daily living. His research spans the fields of Human-Robot Interaction, Haptic Perception, and Robot Manipulation. He did his Ph.D. in Robotics at the Institute of Robotics and Intelligent Machines (IRIM) at Georgia Tech where he was advised by Charlie Kemp at the Healthcare Robotics Lab. His Ph.D. dissertation was on rapid haptic perception using force and thermal sensing. Tapo is currently an NIH Ruth L. Kirschstein NRSA Postdoctoral Fellow in Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Washington where he is working with Sidd Srinivasa at the Personal Robotics Lab on food manipulation in the context of assistive feeding tasks. Upon arriving at Cornell, he would like to continue working towards his goal to enable robots to assist people with mobility limitations with tasks for daily living. He is not only passionate about developing algorithms that solve fundamental problems in these domains but also strongly believes in developing real robotic systems, deploying them in the real world, and evaluating them with real users. With his background in both CS and ME, he is a full-stack roboticist and would love to teach undergraduate and graduate courses on robotics in general and specifically on human-robot interaction, manipulation, haptics, and assistive robotics. Tapo says: “I am really excited by the opportunity to work with the amazing faculty, students, postdocs, and staff at Cornell. Robotics is inherently interdisciplinary and I look forward to establishing collaborations that span multiple departments towards bringing these technologies from our labs into real homes and making them accessible and inclusive, thus improving the quality-of-life of people with mobility limitations.”


Kevin Ellis, Ithaca, starting Fall 2021, Assistant Professor

Kevin works on program induction—building machines which learn to write code—which has applications and connections to programming languages, but also several areas of AI, such as model structure learning, neurosymbolic methods, and semantic parsing. Currently in his final-year of a Ph.D. at MIT, Kevin is working in machine learning and program synthesis while being advised by Josh Tenenbaum and Armando Solar-Lezama. During the gap between completing his graduate school training and starting at Cornell, Kevin will be working at Common Sense Machines in the overlap between program induction and machine vision. He plans to build a research group blending artificial intelligence and program synthesis, as well as teaching AI and creating a new program synthesis class. He says: "I'm thrilled to join the Cornell CS community and contribute to its research and teaching. The department has fantastically strong presences in AI and programming languages, and I look forward to collaborating together."


Emma Pierson, New York City, starting Fall 2021, Assistant Professor

Emma’s research involves the development of data science and machine learning methods to study two broad areas: inequality and healthcare. Most recently, she has been studying inequality in policing, pain, and COVID-19. Supported by Hertz and NDSEG Fellowships, she earned a Ph.D. in computer science as a student in Jure Leskovec's lab at Stanford. Before her Ph.D., she completed a master’s degree in statistics at Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship, working with Christopher Yau, and before that she spent a year as a data scientist at 23andMe and Coursera. For 2020-21, she will be a Senior Researcher at Microsoft Research New England. At Cornell, Emma plans to continue her research at the intersection of healthcare, inequality, and machine learning in collaboration with governmental and healthcare organizations. She notes: “I am very excited to join the computer science faculty at Cornell Tech in Summer 2021.”