Jeannette Wing Appointed Avanessians Director of Columbia’s Data Science Institute

May 01, 2017

Dear fellow members of the Columbia community:

I write to announce my appointment of Dr. Jeannette Wing as the Avanessians Director of Columbia’s Data Science Institute and Professor of Computer Science.  Jeannette will report to the president and will lead the University’s research, scholarship, and teaching in data science, an initiative already involving more than 200 affiliated faculty members across Columbia’s campuses.  This effort will continue expanding in coming years in service of academic discovery in a variety of disciplines including neuroscience and precision medicine, the humanities and social sciences, public policy, and journalism.  The objectives of this project, core to the University’s sustained excellence, are clear and ambitious, and Jeannette is ideally suited to help us achieve them.  She will begin in her new role in early July.

Jeannette comes to Columbia from Microsoft, where for the past four years she has been Corporate Vice President of Microsoft Research, overseeing a global network of research labs.  She is widely recognized for her intellectual leadership, having earned the respect and admiration of colleagues across the field for her role in the dramatic transformation of data science into a discipline essential to so much scholarly discovery and productive invention.  Jeannette’s seminal essay, titled “Computational Thinking,” was published more than a decade ago and is credited with helping to establish the centrality of computer science to problem-solving in fields where previously it had not been embraced.  

Before joining Microsoft in 2013, Jeannette held positions at Carnegie Mellon University and the National Science Foundation.  She served Carnegie Mellon as Chair of the Department of Computer Science and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs.  At the National Science Foundation, she was Assistant Director of the Computer and Information Science and Engineering Directorate, where she oversaw the federal government’s funding of academic computer science research.  Her areas of research expertise include security and privacy, formal methods, programming languages, and distributed and concurrent systems.  Jeannette has been recognized with distinguished service awards from the Computing Research Association and the Association for Computing Machinery.  She holds bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees from MIT.

With Jeannette’s appointment, Professors Kathleen McKeown and Patricia Culligan, the Data Science Institute’s founding Director and Associate Director, respectively, will return to their full-time teaching and research positions at Columbia Engineering.  Dean Boyce and I, and many others across the University, are indebted to Kathy and Trish for their profound contributions to the initial conception and formative development of the Data Science Institute over the past five years.  Under their leadership, the Institute has forged substantial new collaborations across the University and with partners in industry and government.  They and their many dedicated colleagues are responsible for creating the foundation on which we continue to build.

The work being done by all of these talented individuals to engage the burgeoning capacity of data science in service of addressing society’s most urgent challenges is tremendously exciting.  It inspires us with its promise and bolsters our confidence in pursuing one of the University’s core missions: the application of Columbia’s unique ability among society’s institutions to discover the new knowledge critical to overcoming problems that would otherwise be insoluble.  This mission is, no doubt, among the reasons we have been able to attract someone of Jeannette Wing’s caliber to our ranks.  Please join me in welcoming her to Columbia.


Lee C. Bollinger