sealPurdue News

August 21, 2002

Duke computer scientist will head Purdue School of Science

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Jeffrey S. Vitter, professor and administrator at Duke University, has been named the Frederick L. Hovde Dean of Purdue University's School of Science.

Jeffrey S. Vitter

The appointment, effective Sept. 1, was announced today (Wednesday, 8/21) by Provost Sally Frost Mason. Vitter's appointment is subject to approval by the university's board of trustees.

"The School of Science has a great role to play in moving Purdue into the 21st century," Frost Mason said. "Dr. Vitter's wide experiences in academia make him an ideal candidate to lead the school in the Information Age.

"His excellent balance of scholarship and administrative talent make him a fine addition to the Purdue family. The university is fortunate to have him."

Purdue President Martin C. Jischke commented: "Jeff Vitter will strengthen Purdue's senior management team. A first-rate School of Science is fundamental to achieving the university's strategic goals, and his leadership will be the key to building on the school's historic excellence."

Vitter is the Gilbert, Louis and Edward Lehrman Professor of Computer Science at Duke. He served as chair of the Department of Computer Science from 1993 to 2001 and is co-director of Duke's Center for Geometric and Biological Computing. From 1980 to 1993 he was on the faculty at Brown University.

Vitter said he is looking forward to his new position.

"Basic research in science is the cornerstone of the innovations that drive our economy and improve the quality of life," he said. "Education plays a key role, since our students of today will be the leaders of tomorrow. We're at a particularly exciting time as we unlock the secrets of the human genome and learn how to miniaturize devices at the molecular scale. Many of the problems we tackle are multidisciplinary in nature.

"The role of the dean of the School of Science at Purdue is a wonderful leadership opportunity to enable innovative multidisciplinary collaborations and training programs, as well as to enhance core strength and instruction in the individual disciplines. I look forward to working with the faculty and students in the School of Science and across campus in Purdue's continuing quest for excellence in discovery, learning and engagement."

Michael Forman, who has served as interim dean since the retirement of Harry Morrison on July 1, will remain in place until Vitter assumes his new position. Forman will then return to his duties as associate dean.

Vitter received his bachelor's degree with highest honors in mathematics in 1977 from the University of Notre Dame and a doctorate in computer science in 1980 from Stanford. He expects to receive an MBA from the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University this year.

Vitter serves on the board of directors of the Computing Research Association, where he co-chairs the Government Affairs Committee. He recently served as chair of the Special Interest Group on Algorithms and Computation Theory of the world's largest computer professional organization, the Association for Computing Machinery. He has served on the executive council of the European Association for Theoretical Computer Science, as well as on various boards of visitors and review committees. He has had visiting positions at several other institutions, such as the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute in Berkeley, Calif.; Institut National de Recherche en Informatique et en Automatique in Rocquencourt, France; INRIA in Sophia-Antipolis, France; Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris; Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, N.J.; Aarhus University in Denmark; and Tulane University in his hometown of New Orleans.

Among his many honors, Vitter has been named a Guggenheim Fellow, an ACM Fellow, an IEEE Fellow, a National Science Foundation Presidential Young Investigator and a Fulbright Scholar. He has written and edited numerous books and publications, and has served on the editorial board of several journals, including Algorithmica, Communications of the ACM, IEEE Transactions on Computing, Theory of Computing Systems and SIAM Journal on Computing.

Vitter's research spans several areas involving the design and analysis of computer algorithms (which are recipes for solving problems). He is particularly interested in developing efficient algorithms for processing massive amounts of data. He has helped popularize the field of external memory algorithms, in which the goal is to exploit data locality in order to alleviate the communication bottleneck between the computer's fast internal memory and slow external storage (such as magnetic disks) that arises when processing huge quantities of data. He also works extensively on data compression, database optimization, average-case and randomized analysis, and prediction.

The Frederick L. Hovde Deanship honors Purdue's seventh president. Hovde, who earned an advanced degree in physical chemistry as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, led Purdue from 1946 until 1971.

Purdue's School of Science has about 300 faculty members, and it enrolls almost 1,000 graduate students and 3,000 undergraduates. It is made up of seven departments: biology, chemistry, computer sciences, earth and atmospheric sciences, mathematics, physics and statistics. Several departments in the School of Science regularly place in the top 20 nationwide; the area of analytical chemistry was ranked second in this year's U.S. News and World Report survey.

Writer: Chad Boutin, (765) 494-2081,

Sources: Sally Frost Mason, (765) 494-9709,

Martin C. Jischke, (765) 494-2055

Jeffrey Vitter, (919) 660-6503,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

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