Computer Science Department Adds Four Systems Faculty

Publish Date: 08/22/2008

The Computer Science Department continues to build a strong research group in computing systems and networking. Following the arrival of Godmar Back in 2004 and Kirk Cameron in 2005, the department has now welcomed four more faculty members in 2006 whose research and teaching expertise are in computer systems and networking.

Ali R. Butt joined the department as an Assistant Professor in Fall 2006. He received his Ph.D. in August 2006 in electrical and computer engineering from Purdue University, where he also served as the president of Electrical and Computer Engineering Graduate Student Association for 2003 and 2004. Butt conducted his undergraduate work at the University of Engineering and Technology (UET), Lahore, Pakistan.

He interned at Microsoft Corp. in the summer of 2005, in its Windows Server Division where he helped to design and implement a high throughput distributed storage system aimed at reliably storing immutable files for extended periods.

His research interests lie broadly in experimental computer systems, encompassing operating systems, distributed systems, and high performance computing. In particular, he has explored distributed resource sharing systems spanning multiple administrative domains, applications of peer-to-peer overlay networking to resource discovery and self-organization, and techniques for ensuring fairness in sharing of such resources. His research in operating systems focuses on techniques for improving the efficiency of modern file systems via innovative buffer cache management.

Wu-chun Feng joined the faculty at the rank of Associate Professor in Spring 2006. Feng, who led the Research & Development in Advanced Network Technology (RADIANT) team at Los Alamos National Laboratory, is best known for his research in high-performance networking, including early work on Quadrics and more recent work on 10-Gigabit Ethernet and high-speed transport protocols for the wide-area network.

In the area of high-performance computing, Dr. Feng created Green Destiny, a 240-node supercomputer that debuted in early 2002 and occupied only five square feet and consumed only 3.2 kilowatts (comparable to the power used by two hairdryers). Now housed in the Computer History Museum, Green Destiny provided affordable supercomputing to scientists despite being housed in an 85oF dusty warehouse at 7,400 feet above sea level. Furthermore, it did so with no unscheduled downtime in its two-year lifetime. Green Destiny also inspired the creation of mpiBLAST, an open-source parallel BLAST (a pairwise genome sequence-search program). In just over two years, mpiBLAST has been downloaded over 40,000 times due largely to its ability to deliver super-linear speed-up.

In addition to over 100 publications in the above areas, Dr. Feng has received many accolades for his research. Of recent note are three R&D 100 Awards, the Innovative Supercomputer Architecture Award at the International Supercomputer Conference, and being named to HPCwire's Top People to Watch List.

At Virginia Tech, Dr. Feng will co-direct the Systems, Network, & Renaissance Grokking (SyNeRGy) Laboratory and teach both undergraduate and graduate courses in computer architecture and networking. Dr. Feng earned B.S. degrees in Computer Engineering and Music and an M.S. degree in Computer Engineering from Penn State University. He received his Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Dimitris S. Nikolopoulos joined Virginia Tech's CS Department as an associate professor in Fall 2006. Among his numerous honors, Nikolopoulos was named a Department of Energy Early Career Principal Investigator in 2005, following a National Science Foundation CAREER Award in 2004.

Nikolopoulos was educated at the University of Patras, Greece, where he received his Ph.D. in computer engineering (CE) in 2000 and his diploma of CE in 1996. While working on his doctorate he simultaneously held the position of research associate in the High Performance Information Systems Laboratory of the University's Department of CE and Informatics. He also worked as a research associate in the European Center for Parallelism of Barcelona, part of the Department of Computer Architecture, Technical University of Catalunya, in the fall of 1999. He has also held positions as visiting assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and assistant professor of computer science at the College of William & Mary.

Dr. Nikolopoulos's current research interests include: parallel computer architecture (the hardware/software interface), multicore/multithreaded processors, adaptive memory hierarchies, system software and runtime environments, and embedded and power-aware multiprocessors. His contributions in shared-memory multiprocessor architectures have appeared in more than 60 research papers and they have been recognized with five best paper awards, including the best technical paper award of the IEEE/ACM Supercomputing Conference and the best paper award in the field of computer architecture from the IEEE International Parallel and Distributed Processing Symposium.

Eli Tilevich joined the department as an Assistant Professor in Spring 2006. His research interests are in the systems and languages end of software engineering, spanning software technology, object-oriented programming, and distributed systems. Specifically, his research explores how a combination of advanced development techniques (such as code generation, code transformation, and bytecode engineering), novel system designs, and new programming paradigms can assist programmers in developing complex computer systems, especially in the area of distributed computing. In his dissertation research, he conceptualized and developed novel software tools for adding distributed capabilities to centralized programs. His current research is concerned with creating novel software architectures and end-user programming tools for HPC.

Dr. Tilevich's path into computer science was an unusual one. In 1994 a fractured wrist forced him to take a recuperative break from a promising career as a professional classical musician, teaching and playing clarinet in New York City. During that time Tilevich discovered his interest in computer science. After receiving his bachelor's degree in CS (summa cum laude) in 1997 from Pace University, he worked as a software engineer at Information Builders, Inc. Dr. Tilevich holds a master's degree in information systems from New York University, and a doctorate in CS from Georgia Tech. At Virginia Tech, Dr. Tilevich will co-direct the Systems, Network, & Renaissance Grokking (SyNeRGy) Laboratory and teach both undergraduate and graduate courses in software systems.