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‘Critical Conversations’ highlights prominent scholars


Published September 5, 2013

Ed Lazowska is the inaugural Critical Conversations speaker.

UB has launched “Critical Conversations,” an annual presidential program showcasing distinguished scholars at the forefront of their fields who are helping to shape understanding of vital issues facing the world today.

It will be held at the start of the new academic year, and feature a keynote address, as well as opportunities for members of the UB community to interact with the speakers.

The program will debut on Sept. 10 with an address by Ed Lazowska, Bill & Melinda Gates Chair in Computer Science & Engineering, and founding director of the eScience Institute at the University of Washington. One of the world’s foremost scholars in the area of high-performance computing and communication systems, Lazowska will share his unique insights into the modern “big data” paradigm—a topic of far-reaching societal impact with implications for the future.

His talk, “Big Data, Enormous Opportunity,” will take place at 3:30 p.m. in the Student Union Theater, North Campus. A reception will follow in the Student Union Social Hall.

Lazowska also will join UB faculty, staff, students and alumni for a panel discussion on diversity and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields. That discussion will take place at 3:30 p.m. Sept. 9 in 120 Clemens Hall, North Campus.

Both events are free and open to the public. Advanced registration is requested, but not required. 

In announcing the launch of Critical Conversations, President Satish K. Tripathi noted that the new program will celebrate UB’s “longstanding history of intellectual leadership and innovation,” and be a “vital forum for timely, insightful dialogue about key issues shaping the world around us.”

The program, he said, will address such broad-ranging topics as global health concerns, contemporary cultural debates, technological trends and socioeconomic challenges—subjects that cross disciplinary boundaries and geographic borders “to shape daily life for us all.”

The inaugural Critical Conversations speaker, Ed Lazowska, is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, the Association for Computing Machinery, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

His research and teaching focus on the design, implementation and analysis of high-performance computing and communication systems, and more recently, the techniques and technologies of data-intensive discovery.

Lazowska has been active in public policy issues ranging from STEM education to federal policies concerning research and innovation. He recently co-chaired, with David E. Shaw, the Working Group of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, which is charged with reviewing the Federal Networking and Information Technology Research and Development Program. He also co-chaired, with Marc Benioff, the President’s Information Technology Advisory Committee.

From 2007-13 he served as founding chair of the Computing Community Consortium, whose goal is to catalyze the computing research community and enable the pursuit of innovative, high-impact research aligned with pressing national and global challenges. He has served on the Technical Advisory Board for Microsoft Research since its inception, and is a technical adviser to a number of high-tech companies and venture firms.

Lazowska received a bachelor’s degree from Brown University in 1972 and a PhD from the University of Toronto in 1977, the same year he joined the University of Washington faculty.