EECS Alums: Major Players and Thinkers

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Jon Kleinberg, PhD'96" title="Jon Kleinberg, PhD'96

Jon Kleinberg, PhD'96

Jon Kleinberg

“When I arrived at MIT for graduate school in the fall of 1993, the energy level of the place was amazing, and so was the enthusiasm of the people there to share the ideas that excited them.

It was an environment that naturally made you want to explore many things at once. In my first month there, I was already hearing about research topics from many people who would eventually become longterm mentors and collaborators, including Michel Goemans (who soon became my advisor), Bonnie Berger, Tom Leighton, Nancy Lynch, and Allan Borodin (whose fortuitous presence on sabbatical my first semester presaged future overlaps at IBM and elsewhere). Their encouragement in drawing me into working with them was a powerful force in shaping my thoughts on research, and their talents as researchers served as inspiring examples.”

Jon Kleinberg received his AB in Computer Science and Mathematics from Cornell University in 1993, and his PhD from the MIT EECS Department in 1996. He subsequently spent a year as a Visiting Scientist at the IBM Almaden Research Center before joining the Computer Science Department at Cornell, where he currently holds the position of Tisch University Professor. His research focuses on issues at the interface
of networks and information, especially social information networks. He has developed some of the basic methods used for link analysis and temporal analysis on the Web, and has formulated models of social network structure that capture aspects of on-line interaction.

Kleinberg reflects on his days in EECS: “Some of the texture from that period is easier to understand in retrospect. The year after I arrived, around trays of sweet corn at the traditional get-together that marked the start of the academic year for the LCS Theory Group, we were introduced to our new neighbors on the third floor: Tim Berners-Lee and his newly formed World Wide Web Consortium. Excitement about the Web was everywhere — in the visitors that would pass through, in the talks that the late Michael Dertouzos and others gave about the information-rich future, in the URLs that gradually began appearing on the sides of buses up and down Mass. Ave.”

After graduating from MIT, Kleinberg spent a year at IBM Almaden, where he discovered how this excitement was playing out on the West Coast. “At Almaden,” Kleinberg notes, “Prabhakar Raghavan guided me toward ways of combining different strands of thinking from grad school, taking the topics at the heart of my thesis — networks, algorithms, and optimization — turning them to use on the most intriguing network of the time: the link structure of the Web.”

On his return to Cornell, as a faculty member, Kleinberg reconnected with some of his earliest collaborators including early mentors Dan Huttenlocher and Eva Tardos, who became colleagues on the faculty, and from whom he notes: “I feel as though I still learn as much from them now as I did then.” At Cornell, he notes, “I’ve tried to pursue more deeply the idea that the emergence of the Web reflects a powerful fusion of the technological and the social — connecting people not just to information but to each other. This has motivated joint research between faculty and students in computing and information science, economics, sociology, communication, and a number of other disciplines.”

Equally invested in his teaching, Kleinberg is excited about advising students who want to pursue this synthesis of topics, encouraging them from the start “to take the next steps in exploring where this new set of ideas will lead.”

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