EECS Grads: They’re Everywhere and They’re Versatile

Of all the engineering disciplines, electrical engineering, especially with the blend of computer science, algorithms, and extensive use of modeling techniques, seemed like the best way to achieve my numerous goals.

Alain Cohen, ’86, co-founded OPNET Technologies, Inc. in 1986.

Alain Cohen, ’86, co-founded OPNET Technologies, Inc. in 1986.

Alain Cohen looks back at his arrival at MIT in 1982 at age 16, when he was searching for his passion, and shares his thinking at the time: “Although I was most interested in mathematics, I really wanted to be exposed to as many subjects as possible. I was always very attracted to solving abstract problems; but I was even more attracted to the idea of inventions that could achieve broad-scale use; and that sent me in the direction of engineering.

Cohen liked the blend of EE and CS for several reasons. First, software appeared to him to be the most fertile medium for implementing new ideas, because of its flexibility, the speed of implementation, and most of all, the relative closeness between the way ideas are expressed by humans and the way in which they are expressed in software. But, at the same time, he also wanted to know how the ‘layers beneath’ work. “I think that makes you more effective when building systems,” relates Cohen “…and I also think that innovation frequently comes from straddling layers and understanding how the ‘lower layer’ can better support the ‘higher layer’ to enable breakthroughs.

With his thesis advisor, Prof. Dimitri Bertsekas, Cohen and his classmate and friend Steven Baraniuk, also Class of ’86, developed a prototype data network modeling and simulation system they called ‘OPNET’. He remembers the ‘moment.’ While taking several EECS classes involving digital circuit design, he was exposed to both simulation-based models as verification of design and in 6.263 under Prof. Bertsekas, concepts of data networking. The final 6.263 project provided the ideal opportunity to combine the two concepts: software-based modeling and simulation applied to data networking.

Alain Cohen co-founded OPNET Technologies, Inc. in 1986. He has led the design and development of many of the company’s software products which are aimed at resolving and preventing problems in networks and distributed applications. Alain and his brother Marc brought OPNET public on the NASDAQ stock exchange in 2000 and today Alain serves as the company’s president and CTO.

Cohen also describes how the process of founding a company was like the thrill of competing in sports “except it’s competing with your brain.” He was very much impressed by entrepreneurial graduates who seemed like “heroes of the technology world.” That entrepreneurial desire was hard to shake. “Once the seed is planted and the excitement is there, it’s just a matter of when you will cross paths with the right idea.

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4 Responses to “EECS Grads: They’re Everywhere and They’re Versatile”

  1. e-ticaret says:

    Nice post. Thank you.

  2. I really like your writing style, good info , thanks for posting : D.

  3. Steve Chang says:

    Wow, nice information. I love Alain Cohen..

  4. Sissie says:

    Great job, Alain; you must be proud!

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