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UC Berkeley to open theory of computing institute

May 01, 2012|By Deborah Netburn
  • Students walk through Sproul Plaza on the UC Berkeley campus.
Students walk through Sproul Plaza on the UC Berkeley campus. ( Justin Sullivan / Getty…)

UC Berkeley has won a $60-million grant from the Simons Foundation to establish the Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing, the University announced Tuesday.

The institute, which hopes to draw top computer researchers from around the world, will be up and running in July. The first scientific programs are expected to start in January 2013.

Richard Karp, a Berkeley professor of computer science, will serve as the institute's founding director.

Computer theory is being used increasingly in scientific communities to help scientists analyze the huge quantities of data that better and cheaper technologies have made it possible to collect.

Although it all sounds a bit … well … theoretical, the institute will use algorithms and mathematical approaches to tackle tangible issues such as understanding how our bodies fight disease, creating more accurate climate change models, and making social and commercial interactions on the computer more secure and efficient.

"We expect that within the next two decades, every major field of science will have among its most significant achievements at least one that is computational in nature," Karp said in a statement.

One of the first issues the institute will look at is how the diversity of life evolved in only 4 billion years, and whether it is possible to collect information from people while keeping specific details about those people private.

Google has already signed on to be the Simons Institute's first founding industrial partner.

"We believe it will be a great step forward for theoretical computing in general and for many of the fields that are critical to Google's mission, including search, machine learning, large data sets, security, computer vision, digital media, and the study of social networks and economic mechanisms on the Web," said Peter Norvig, director of research at Google, in a statement.

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