EECS Alumni/ae: taking EECS to the limits

Bill Stasior

Bill Stasior, EECS ‘88, VI-A SM ’91, EE ’93, PhD ‘97, president of

“Being at MIT was enormously valuable to me — on the one hand it demanded a great deal and challenged me to my limits. On the other, it showed me that I can succeed in learning almost anything if I 1) find the right teacher 2) really engage my mind and 3) take the time to break the problem down to its essence.

Of course, this is true for anybody and it has not only shaped how I work as an individual but also in the teams I strive to build.”

Bill Stasior, EECS ‘88, VI-A SM ’91, EE ’93, PhD ‘97, joined in 2003 as Director of Search and Navigation in Seattle and later helped found an Amazon subsidiary,, where he ran the Search Technology Group. He became president of in 2006.

As a TA in EECS for 6.001, 6.003, and head TA for 6.004 (organizing a class with 14 sections– meaning 2 lecturers, 7 recitation professors, 14 graduate TAs, and 14 undergraduate lab assistants), Stasior built technical management skills on which he relies heavily today. “My job [leading] has become less and less about doing things myself and more and more about teaching people what I know and finding people who can teach me what I don’t.”

Stasior also finds that he spends as much time trying to understand his students (or his audience) as thinking about what he has to say. “At MIT, I discovered that teaching is hard. It requires a lot more than knowing the material alone. My first experiences teaching 6.001 recitations were confounding. I explained the material but when I asked somebody–anybody in the class—to re-explain it, they couldn’t. Here were some of the brightest college students in the world, yet the information didn’t seem to be sinking in. I learned that teaching requires understanding the mind of the student.”

Stasior’s PhD research focused on developing an advanced multimedia system for the support of computerized interpretation of video data. He also found time to become involved in several extra projects. For example, he created a website called “The World Wide Web of Sports” an online directory for sports that got mentioned in Sports Illustrated (and predated Yahoo! by 6 months). “We were amongst the very first to put live video on the web and even built a remote controlled vehicle that anybody on the web could drive around the office. When Vice President Al Gore came to see it (true story) we declared it ‘The first car on the information superhighway’.”

Over the course of his EECS education, Stasior also took advantage of meeting and working with Department faculty. “As I had the opportunities to get close to exceptional faculty members with diverse interests such as Steve Ward, Hal Abelson, Michael Sipser, Eric Grimson and Amar Bose, I learned that great thinkers are almost universally great communicators. The clarity of their own thought translates into an ability to make what they understand seem simple–rather than complex.”

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