EECS Alumni/ae: taking EECS to the limits

Eran Egozy, SB ’95 (6-1), MEng. ’95 (6-P)

Eran Egozy, '95 (6-1), MEng (6P) '95, Founder and Chief Technology Officer of Harmonix Music Systems

Eran Egozy, '95 (6-1), MEng (6P) '95, Founder and Chief Technology Officer of Harmonix Music Systems

“Even though I started at MIT 21 years ago, I still vividly remember my favorite classes and the amazing professors who taught them: 6.001 with Eric Grimson and Rod Brooks, 6.341 (DSP) with John Buck, 6.042 (Discrete Mathematics) with Arthur Mattuck, to name just a few. In our first class of 6.001, Professor Brooks said, “we’re going to teach you the entire Scheme language in one day.” I distinctly remember panicking. I would have to learn an entirely new programming language in one day? What about the following 14 weeks? He then explained that during the rest of the semester, we would learn the fundamental principles of programming languages. With these fundamentals, we could go off and learn any language. In other words, we weren’t just learning one particular subject. We were learning how to learn. It was a pivotal moment of realization for me. MIT, and especially Course 6, would be the most challenging and most rewarding learning experiences I would have.

Things only accelerated after that. Beginning sophomore year, I got a UROP studying massively parallel computer architectures with Professor Tom Knight and his generous graduate students who took me under their wing (Andre’ DeHon – now at UPenn, Fred Chong – now at UC Santa Barbara). I worked on fault tolerant network topologies, where a massively multiprocessor computer could continue to function even while sustaining failures in a subset of its processors. Here I no longer had the rigor and structure of lectures and problem sets. In fact, defining the problem was part of the problem. I experienced that nervous thrill of exploring new areas that had never been addressed before, knowing that creative thinking could yield new discoveries.

All the while, I also took as many music classes and played in as many performance ensembles as I could handle (I play the clarinet). MIT has no boundaries. No one says no to crazy ideas or non-traditional combination of pursuits. I really loved the signal processing and data analysis classes I took. My MEng thesis was the quintessential combination of music and electrical engineering: “Deriving Musical Control Features from a Real-Time Analysis of the Clarinet.”

Immediately after graduating, I partnered with my friend and fellow MIT graduate Alex Rigopulos to start an “interactive music” company called Harmonix Music Systems. At Harmonix, our mission is to make everyone feel the joy of making music. We are now in our 15th year of operation and employ almost 300 people. Our most successful game franchises, Guitar Hero and Rock Band have reached 20 million households. While at their core, these are simply video games, they have given people a deeper way to experience music, rekindled their interest in studying musical instruments, and certainly livened up many parties. My job has evolved considerably from being the only programmer at Harmonix to now managing the entire engineering staff, handling complex Intellectual Property issues, guiding the company’s long-term strategy, and participating in game design and software design. Even though I have been out of MIT for much longer than I was there, I feel that the fundamental principles of learning how to learn, embracing exploration, and breaking down boundaries, are helping me every day.”

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