Campus & Community

Lecture series to explore digital horizons

3 min read

Computer innovations of the future will take center stage

Former Google Chief Operations Engineer Jim Reese will share the secrets of how he helped the search engine grow from 300 servers when he joined the company in 1999 to 10,000 today in a talk scheduled for Wednesday (Sept. 28).

Reese, who graduated from Harvard College in 1988 with a biology degree and who went on to earn an M.D. from Yale, will tackle the daunting topic of “How to build Google in your spare time.”

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The event, which will take place in room 115 in Maxwell Dworkin at 4 p.m., is the first in a yearlong seminar series organized around the topic of innovative and advanced computing.

The series is sponsored by the Initiative for Innovative Computing at Harvard (IIC), a new effort whose aim is to develop computer-based solutions to complex research problems. The initiative aims to focus its effort on practical computing problems whose solution can be generalized to help other researchers.

The seminar series is among the first of a number of public activities for the new initiative and aims to provide a forum to discuss current and future computational technology that affects research in the physical and life sciences. The series is designed to both spur conversation about data-intensive research across Harvard and to bring in outside experts for discussion.

“The IIC seminars will present a chance for members of the Harvard community to hear about, to present, and to discuss aspects of the present and future of computational science,” said Astronomy Professor Alyssa Goodman, who is director of the initiative. “We at the IIC are excited to have the chance to present these ideas and explore where the future may take us.”

Reese originally embarked on a career in medicine, receiving his medical degree and then serving a three-and-a-half-year residency in neurosurgery in Stanford. He left Stanford for SRI International, a nonprofit research institute, where he developed a computer program to analyze brain MRIs.

Reese joined Google Inc. a year after it was founded as just the company’s 18th employee. His role was as the company’s main system administrator and he oversaw its dramatic hardware and network expansion, implementing an automated system for remotely administering and monitoring Google’s servers.

Other speakers in the series include Ian Foster, of the Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Chicago, and Volker Springel, of the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics.

Foster will discuss, “Service-oriented Science” on Oct. 6. Springel’s topic for his Oct. 19 talk will be “Computational techniques in Numerical Cosmology.” See the IIC’s website for more details: