Head of UI's computer-science department leaving for Pitt

Head of UI's computer-science department leaving for Pitt

Updated 11 a.m.

URBANA — The head of the highly touted computer-science department at the University of Illinois is leaving to take a new research post at the University of Pittsburgh.

Professor Rob Rutenbar was named Monday as senior vice chancellor for research at Pitt, a new position created to enhance the school's research innovation and technology partnerships.

He will join the staff in July.

At the UI, Rutenbar holds an endowed engineering professorship and oversees 70 faculty members and more than 2,400 students in the computer-science department, which is currently ranked fifth in the nation by U.S. News and World Report.

Before taking that job, he was a faculty member at Carnegie Mellon University's Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering for 25 years.

Rutenbar said he'll miss the colleagues and friends he's made during his eight years at Illinois but couldn't pass up the opportunity to return to Pittsburgh and guide a campus research enterprise.

"The Computer Science department I lead at Illinois is the most popular and applied-to major on campus today, and helping to guide this exponential growth has been enormously satisfying, so I’ll miss those challenges," he said in an email to The News-Gazette. "But the opportunity to help shape research strategy across the entire Pitt campus was just something I couldn’t say no to.

"Pitt has such extraordinary intellectual assets: the medical and health enterprise, the newly formed School of Computing and Information, great professional schools of engineering, law, business.  As a large, comprehensive university, the opportunities to help facilitate new research programs across these great foundational units were just irresistible."

Pittsburgh lost its core economic and industrial base but reinvented itself as an "eds and meds" economy, with entrepreneurial projects in partnership with universities and health systems that have had an enormous impact regionally, nationally and even globally, he said.

Rutenbar is a native of Detroit, "one of those vital American cities that people describe with that wretched 'R' word – 'Rustbelt.'"

"Pittsburgh’s turnaround is an amazing model of how great universities like Pitt can be a driving force for industrial revitalization. When I originally came to Pittsburgh, there were still dead steel mills on the rivers. Then the eds-and-meds renaissance reconfigured the entire region. Detroit would love to be where Pittsburgh is today," he said.

Rutenbar said the state of Illinois' budget troubles didn't play a role in his decision.

"Many of the great public universities are in the middle of a 'recalibration' of their relationship with their states, as they debate a proper size and model of public support for public education.   World-class schools like UIUC will make it through this new phase just fine," he said.

As an entrepreneur, Rutenbar founded the tech firms Neolinear Inc. and Voci Technologies Inc. in 1998 and 2006, respectively. He was founding director for the Center for Circuit and System Solutions, a multi-university consortium that worked on next-generation chip design challenges.

He received 14 U.S. patent grants, and his work has been funded by AT&T, Google, IBM and the National Science Foundation. He has authored eight books and been recognized with several engineering career awards.

He received his bachelor's degree from Wayne State University and his master's and doctoral degrees from the University of Michigan, all in engineering.

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moderndaycowboy wrote on April 11, 2017 at 8:04 am

The poaching continues. Thanks, Rauner. You're single-handedly ruining higher education in Illinois. Well, maybe not single0handedly, MAdigan deserves balme as well. Nice job, guys.