By Ron Brachman, new Director of the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute
If I were to pick a theme for the most rewarding experiences of my career, it would have to be leading the exploration of the intersection of theory and practice. A quick look at the way points along my path illustrates this: growing a world-class AI and ML research team at Bell Labs; helping design a novel industrial research organization in AT&T Labs; growing the Cognitive Systems initiative and providing the foundation for the creation of Siri at DARPA; and helping to found Yahoo Labs, showing how computing research can impact the world at huge scale. Each was an incredible, high-quality place with resources and patience to pursue deep science while striving to have huge, tangible impact. And each place actively supported risk-taking and challenging the conventional wisdom.
I never dreamed I’d have the chance to lead such an effort at a top-flight academic institution – I didn’t even know that such a place could exist. When I learned about the Jacobs Institute, I simply could not pass up the chance to be a part of what is being created here at Cornell Tech. It’s unprecedented, and totally fits what I love to do the most: science with a purpose.
While I hadn’t held a full-time academic position since completing my PhD, this campus felt so familiar and so aligned with what I’d been doing that it felt like home. In the places I’ve worked, the research was top notch with a solid fundamental underpinning, the same kind of scientific research you see in a university; on the flip side, the mission here is also about real impact, just as it’s been in all of the industry labs I’ve loved. Cornell Tech, with its commitment to bridging research and industry, is a perfect fit.
As innovative and different as Cornell Tech is in the higher ed world, for me the bleeding-edge experimentation at Jacobs was the icing on the cake. To have the resources of Cornell and Technion together, with a license to break rules and traditions if they get in the way of innovation, was too good to miss. It’s a startup in its own right, and a challenge that builds on my experience developing initiatives from the ground up, forging new partnerships, and leading successful research efforts that change the world in great ways for real people.
As Director of the Jacobs Institute, I hope to continue to build deep and novel kinds of connections with industry and the entrepreneurial universe, providing our students with the tools necessary to become leaders in their respective fields and to change the world. I look forward to building on the Institute’s current hubs for Connective Media and Health Tech, and all of the new efforts we create together. I want to continue to invent incredible programs that, like Runway, open people’s eyes to things they never dreamed possible in academia. And most importantly, I am eager to work with the incredible people who are already here, and help us find many more with whom we will collaborate on game-changing things (on the world’s coolest new campus).
I want to thank Adam Shwartz for his tremendous leadership and for helping to launch Jacobs so effectively, but especially for creating a place that’s not afraid to evolve. As Adam has said to me, this is just the beginning, and everything can change. I can’t wait to get started.