Sarita Adve Joins DARPA group that keeps an eye out for technological surprises, opportunities

8/21/2017 David Mercer, CS @ ILLINOIS

Professor Sarita Adve joins DARPA's ISAT Study Group: 30 scientists and engineers who are helping to identify future directions for computer and communications research.

Written by David Mercer, CS @ ILLINOIS

Since the 1980s, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has maintained a rotating group of 30 engineers and scientists to advise it on areas in computer and communication technologies where big changes are primed to happen, and a CS @ ILLINOIS professor has been invited to join.

Sarita Adve
Sarita Adve

DARPA has named Sarita Adve, the Richard T. Cheng Professor of Computer Science, to a three-year term with its Information Science and Technology Study Group, starting this summer.

The ISAT Study Group works to identify future directions for computer and communications research. Adve said she’s looking forward to both having an influence on that research, and seeing how the group will in turn help shape her work.

“The ISAT Study Group consists of some of the best researchers in a wide range of areas. I look forward to the conversations and brainstorming to influence my broader community’s and my own future research directions,” she said.

Adve’s research has always focused on problem-solving at the intersection of hardware and software. That’s one of the key reasons she was chosen, according to Chris Ramming, who chairs the Study Group and is the senior director of research and innovation at the software company VMware Inc. But there was something else that made her a great candidate, too, Ramming said.

“There’s also intangible criteria of the service gene, people who are willing to give back to the community. Sarita demonstrates that,” Ramming said. “This is a volunteer activity. Members have to look beyond shorter-term motivations to understand the potential for looming surprises with national security implications.”

The Study Group was started by DARPA in 1987 to provide ongoing and independent assessment of information science and technology as they relate to the U.S. Department of Defense.

Part of the Study Group’s job, Ramming said, is to alert DARPA to technological surprises that are on the horizon, or to create them itself.

Adve hopes to lead at least one study over the next three years that provides guidance on major challenges ahead, such as what she sees as the underappreciated threat of the looming end of Moore’s Law -- the longstanding rule of thumb that the number of transistors that can be built into an integrated circuit will double every couple of years, and computing power along with it.

“In my own field of architecture, this is a game-changing, perhaps once-in-a-lifetime paradigm shift,” Adve said. “How to meet expected performance requirements of the future is anybody’s guess.”

“At the same time, we have huge societal challenges like climate change where computer systems have a large role to play,” she added. “For all of these challenges, it is clear that hardware and software need to come together as never before, changing the way we design systems and even think about disciplinary boundaries.”

Adve also sees her appointment as an opportunity for CS @ ILLINOIS.

“I hope to be able to bring other members of our department into ISAT studies that are led by other members of the group which will cover a wide range of areas,” she said. “This is significant for the department as I hope my efforts in the group will be amplified by having others participate as well.”


This short overview of Professor Adve's contributions to the field was created when she was recognized with Anita Borg Institute's 2012 Women of Vision Award for Innovation.

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This story was published August 21, 2017.