Change of leadership at DIMACS

Rebecca Wright and Fred Roberts[September 2011] DIMACS Leadership Change

The start of the 2011-12 academic year marked a transition of leadership at DIMACS from Fred Roberts, the center’s director for nearly sixteen years, to Rebecca Wright, who is a professor in the Computer Science Department and was also the center’s deputy director.

In a message to the DIMACS community Wright stated, “DIMACS owes a tremendous debt of gratitude to Fred for his leadership over the past 16 years.” During his time as DIMACS director, Roberts oversaw many changes. Chief among them was navigating DIMACS past the end of its center grant, which was its primary source of funding through 2000. Broadening of funding inevitably led to broadening of DIMACS research to include topics in areas such as mathematical biology and homeland security, both of which are now important themes at DIMACS. Success in homeland security ultimately led to the founding of CCICADA, a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Center of Excellence, which is based at DIMACS and directed by Roberts.

Roberts plans to remain at DIMACS as a senior advisor to DIMACS and Director of CCICADA. In his message to the DIMACS community announcing the change in leadership, Roberts said, “I am also looking forward to having a little more time for continuing my research and writing projects. I am excited about the many projects I will be involved in and look forward to continuing to work with the DIMACS community on them.”

A celebratory workshop “DIMACS: Honoring Fred Roberts and Celebrating the Future” on December 5, 2011 highlights some of his projects and interests and explores the path forward for DIMACS.

Wright joined Rutgers in 2007 as a faculty member in Computer Science and as DIMACS Deputy Director, a position that was created with the goal of eventual transition to the position of Director. As she takes the reigns at DIMACS, Wright is able to call upon a long personal history of involvement in DIMACS activities. On the occasion of DIMACS’s 20th Birthday in 2009, she gave a brief synopsis of her early activities:

“DIMACS and I have grown up together in many ways.  20 years ago, as DIMACS was first starting, I was a beginning graduate student in theoretical computer science.  My first public scientific presentation took place at the second DIMACS workshop, on Distributed Computing and Cryptography; my first published paper was in the associated AMS-DIMACS volume.  Also at that workshop, I heard a talk by my future advisor Michael Fischer and ultimately my thesis work grew out of that work.  Several times a year, a group of us (faculty and grad students) would pile into a car to drive to DIMACS.  That was the beginning of a long and fruitful interaction with DIMACS, one that has now led to my joining the DIMACS leadership team to help guide DIMACS into its next 20 years.   Over the years, many of my research ideas have been shaped in some way through interactions that took place at DIMACS. Some of the most exciting experiences I have had at DIMACS is watching and contributing to its impact on later generations of students and junior researchers as they begin their own careers.”

Read the messages to the community about the leadership transition from Rebecca Wright and from Fred Roberts.

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