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Search Committee Appoints Zue Director Of LCS Following Two Month Interim Role

By Brian Loux


After serving as interim director for two months, Professor Victor W. Zue has been named director of the Laboratory for Computer Science by an internal search committee.

“I would like to continue the tradition of being a internationally preeminent computer lab,” Zue said.

Zue became interim director on August 31 following the death of Michael L. Dertouzos four days earlier. A five member committee was formed soon after by Dean of Engineering Thomas L. Magnanti to determine who should permanently take over the position.

Zue arrived at MIT in 1970 as a graduate student, going on to obtain his doctorate of science in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science in 1976. He began to work at LCS in 1989 and quickly rose in the ranks to become the Associate Director in 1992.

Jury of peers select Zue

Faculty close to Zue were pleased with his appointment as director.

“We talked to a large number of people in the lab to see how they would like to see the lab move forward in terms of directorship,” said Professor Ronald L. Rivest, a search committee member. “We asked them many questions and there was a good range of discussion.”

There were no candidates for the position; rather, names like Zue’s arose only via the recommendations of colleagues. “We had an excellent candidate already, the lab seemed to feel,” Rivest said.

Many members of the LCS liked Zue during his tenure as Associate Director, and the committee noted his knowledge of the lab and its staff.

Others mentioned Zue’s research record as a reason for his appointment. “He is quite a notable researcher,” Magnanti said. “He’s been a leading researcher in speech recognition. He brings his administrative background and leadership in research.”

Zue was also successful in bringing sponsors for the lab, specifically the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which was a large concern for the committee. “Our research budget is about 20 million per year, and DARPA has been a primary source of funding from the government. We also have many industrial sponsors,” Rivest said.

LCS future focused on research

Zue said that he hopes to continue the breakthrough research of the era and administration that proceeded him. “In this era,” Zue said, “we would like to expand into areas that have not already been in computer science.”

Not surprisingly, Zue has high hopes for the fields he has researched in the past, specifically speech recognition and computational biology. “I think computer science has a lot to learn from and offer to biology,” Zue said. He mentioned how much the Human Genome Project benefitted from computer science, and hopes that other combined projects in the future could achieve similar results.

He also hopes to greatly advance Project Oxygen, a joint project between the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and LCS. The project attempts to integrate computer technology into everyday chores of life. “We are doing a lot of very interesting things,” he said.

Zue said plans to continue as LCS director for a few years. He cited his love for the laboratory as the main reason he decided to take the job.

Jeffrey Greenbaum contributed to the reporting of this story.