The University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science has announced the appointment of Sandhya Dwarkadas as chair of the Department of Computer Science. She will assume the role on July 1, 2022.
“I am excited and honored to join UVA Engineering to lead the Department of Computer Science and build on a period of exceptional growth and transformation,” Dwarkadas said. “I hope to leverage the significant opportunities to advance research and educational excellence by fostering the department’s collaborative and inclusive culture.”
Dwarkadas comes to UVA Engineering from the University of Rochester Hajim School of Engineering and Applied Sciences in New York, where she is interim associate vice president for research and the Albert Arendt Hopeman Professor of Engineering, with a primary appointment in the Department of Computer Science and a secondary appointment in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.
“Sandhya is a world-class researcher with excellent leadership skills and experiences,” said UVA Engineering Dean Jennifer L. West. “She has a demonstrated record of fostering interdisciplinary collaboration and supporting diversity, equity and inclusion, with an emphasis on increasing the participation of women and students from other backgrounds traditionally underrepresented in computer science. We are thrilled she will join our team.”
Dwarkadas received her bachelor’s degree from the Indian Institute of Technology Madras, and her master’s and Ph.D. from Rice University. She joined the University of Rochester in 1996. She served as chair of the Department of Computer Science from 2014 to 2020 before assuming her current role. In 2020, she received the Edmund A. Hajim Outstanding Faculty Award for excellence in research, teaching and service, in recognition of her contributions to the school.
During her six-year term as chair, Dwarkadas successfully managed the more than two-fold increase in undergraduate enrollments; oversaw the relocation of the department into new offices and laboratory space; expanded the master’s degree program; recruited eight new tenure- and teaching-track faculty members; initiated her department’s participation in a program called Building, Recruiting, And Inclusion for Diversity, or BRAID; and took steps to foster an inclusive environment, including the institution of a training program for teaching assistants to support burgeoning class enrollments. Dwarkadas’ efforts were instrumental in driving up female undergraduate enrollments to approximately 30%, a six-fold increase from a decade prior, as well as in a sharp increase in the department’s overall research expenditures.
Dwarkadas will bring a resume full of honors and accomplishments to her position at UVA. Early in her career, she earned a prestigious National Science Foundation CAREER Award. In 2017, she was named a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and the following year, she was named a fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery.
In her research, Dwarkadas has made extensive contributions to the design and implementation of shared memory in hardware and software, and to energy- and resource-aware hardware and software design. She has authored more than 100 refereed papers, secured more than $13 million in external funding and is the co-recipient of 12 patents. She has also directed 11 Ph.D. students to completion, including current faculty members at Ohio State University, University of Utah and Simon Fraser University, as well as technical leaders and researchers at Facebook, Google, IBM Research, Intel, Microsoft, Nvidia and VMware.
A Commitment to Diversity
Throughout her career, Dwarkadas has been committed to initiatives that encourage underrepresented populations to enter computing fields. At the University of Rochester, she was instrumental in securing a selective spot for her Department of Computer Science in the Building, Recruiting, and Inclusion for Diversity, or BRAID, initiative, a national effort that aims to increase the percentage of women and students of color majoring in computer science. She also actively supported such student organizations as Women and Minorities in Computing, the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers and the National Society of Black Engineers.
Dwarkadas has also been active in the Computing Research Association’s Committee on Widening Participation in Computing Research, co-leading the Graduate Cohort Workshop for Women for six years, and serving as a mentor, workshop panelist and speaker over the years. She is co-chair of the committee and a Computing Research Association board member.
At UVA Engineering, Dwarkadas takes over from Kevin Skadron, Harry Douglas Forsyth Professor of Computer Science, who served as chair of the Department of Computer Science for nine years. During his tenure, Skadron added 30 tenure-track faculty, more than doubled graduate enrollments and increased research expenditures by 261%.
“I am proud to build on Kevin’s successes and will work with faculty to create new transformational opportunities in research and education,” Dwarkadas said.
In addition to strengthening collaborations within the engineering school, particularly with electrical and computer engineering, Dwarkadas has set her sights on expanding the department’s collaborations with UVA’s Biocomplexity Institute, School of Data Science and College of Arts and Sciences for cross-cutting research initiatives that incorporate diverse points of view and create research and career opportunities for UVA students.
Pending Dwarkadas’ arrival next July, Aidong Zhang is serving as interim chair of the department. Zhang is the William Wulf Faculty Fellow and a professor of computer science. She also holds appointments in the UVA Engineering Department of Biomedical Engineering and the UVA School of Data Science.