Shivnath Babu Promoted to Associate Professor

June 11, 2012

The Department is pleased to announce the promotion of Shivnath Babu to associate professor, effective July 1, 2012.

Babu, a member of the Systems and Architecture faculty in Computer Science, joined Duke as an assistant professor in 2006. He completed his doctorate at Stanford University.

“It’s really a great feeling,” Babu said, noting he’s especially excited about the tenure process that led to his promotion and the affirmation of his work from experts in the field. “It’s a validation of all the work and planning that went into carving out a research area. What’s really satisfying is that people think my research group is doing good work. We were able to anticipate what would be important problems and create a plan over five years. Our solutions to these problems can actually benefit a lot of people both nationally and internationally.”

Babu’s research group focuses on making the analysis of massive amounts of data easy, fast and cost-effective.

“Duke wants to be a leader in big data,” he said. “They understand that data-driven applications are the future.”

Over the last few years, the collection of large amounts of data has become increasingly easier. Massive amounts are generated by Facebook, Twitter, governments, universities and more. Yet while data and machines are increasing exponentially in many different disciplines, the number of skilled professionals who can manage the data and machines is barely growing. Processing data remains a manual process, even with the popular software system Hadoop. That system — also used for storing, managing and analyzing big data — requires much configuration and, thus, time and resources. Babu’s group has been working on an automated management system called Starfish that can quickly configure and optimize the options available on systems like Hadoop — opening those systems to a broad and growing class of users who want to extract useful information quickly from very large datasets. In addition, Starfish can further help save resources by recommending the minimum cloud resources needed to complete a task in a specified time period. The goal is to also make Starfish able to automatically find and fix misconfigurations.

“Shivnath’s research has an unusual blend of theoretical depth and attention to applications and practical detail,” Computer Science Chairman Carlo Tomasi said. “Not only does he publish in the best academic venues in his field, but he also works closely with industry, and he is likely to have a significant impact in both domains.

“Shivnath is also a tireless, dedicated and well-liked contributor to a wide variety of departmental activities. I look forward to continuing to work with him.”

Babu, who won an NSF Career Award in 2007 and IBM Faculty Awards in 2006-2008, recently was selected as chairman of the IEEE Computer Society Data Engineering Workgroup on Self-Managing Database Systems. The workgroup fosters research aimed at enabling database systems to manage themselves seamlessly, reducing the cost of deployment and administration.