Brief Summary of Activities During Prof. Arvind's Tenure as N. Rama Rao
Professor Arvind of MIT was the first occupant of the N. Rama Rao Chair in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering. His term ended on December 25, 1999. As the Department and the Institute were keen to start the Chair activity with an eminent person, Professor Arvind's name was proposed by the Department. The Chair committee then offered him the occupancy of the chair for a period of 1 year, starting December 1998. As Professor Arvind had his commitments at MIT and as the department wished to start the Chair activities soon, it was decided that Professor Arvind will spend a few weeks during each semester at the CSE department of IIT Kanpur. This was communicated and agreed to by the donor for the Chair corpus. This brief note summarizes the contributions Professor Arvind's tenure made to CSE. Professor Arvind visited for about 3 weeks in January 1999 and in August 1999.
Along with Dr. Rajat Moona, he taught the architecture course in 1997-98-II semester. To give the maximum benefit to students of his experience and expertise, the course was offered to 3rd year BTech, 4th year BTech, and MTech students. More than 60 students registered for the course.
He gave the first seminar in the N. Rama Rao Distinguished Lecture Series that the department has started.
He offered a short, research-level, course on "Memory Models" which the faculty and students working in that area attended (about 10). In addition, some engineers from Tata Infotech also attended (we are hoping that through this activity, some sponsored projects may be started by Tata Infotech.)
He offered another short, research-level, course on "Hardware Synthesis" which the faculty and students working in that area attended (about 10).
He gave a tutorial on "Term Rewriting Systems". This is a topic which has a wide variety of uses and in which the CSE department had no expertise.
He gave another tutorial on "Lambda Calculus", another very important foundational topic in computer science.
He gave a tutorial on "Cache Coherence Protocols".
CSE had recently initiated an exercise to enhance the curriculum of its core courses. Prof. Arvind reviewed each of the core courses and made suggestions. In other words, we utilized his experience to review our current UG curriculum.
One project has been started with Dr. Rajat Moona. In this project, Dr. Moona will use the language and method he has developed to complement the term rewriting based system that Prof. Arvind has developed for synthesis of processors.
Prof. Arvind individually met each faculty to discuss their research work (and gave feedback and suggestions). This type of activity is rarely undertaken in a department, and could be done by him due to his stature and respect.
We discussed with him various academic and R&D issues that the Department is facing. (For example, how to handle post-graduate students with insufficient background; how to build research groups with a small faculty; how to involve under-graduates more in the R&D activity, etc.) As it turns out MIT faced many similar problems earlier. His feedback on how MIT handled similar problems has given the department a fresh perspective.
We discussed the issue of attracting best people to spend time in the department through the N Rama Rao Chair. Prof. Arvind has agreed to help us identify people and contact them and has also agreed to be an "ambassador" for the department/Chair.
Overall, his stay, though shorter than what the department would have liked, was very beneficial for the department. It gave us many ideas on how to further build our Department and reinforced many of the approaches we are taking. Professor Arvind was also quite impressed with our faculty and students and the work we are doing something that bodes well for the department.