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Zvi Galil Named Dean of Columbia's Engineering School

Zvi Galil, a widely respected theoretical computer scientist at Columbia University, has been named Dean of the University's School of Engineering and Applied Science.

The appointment was made by the University Trustees and announced by President George Rupp. Dr. Galil assumes the new position August 1.

Dr. Galil, who is Julian Clarence Levi Professor of Mathematical Methods and Computer Science and served as chairman of the Department of Computer Science from 1989 until this year, is a world leader in the design and analysis of computer algorithms--sets of instructions for completing computational tasks--and has developed a number of techniques to improve their efficiency. Many of his algorithms are the fastest at solving a particular kind of problem or use the smallest amount of computer memory to find a solution. He has collaborated with scientists in diverse fields, including biology, mathematics and statistics, to help devise novel ways to attack difficult problems.

"Zvi Galil is an outstanding computer scientist who is also an accomplished faculty leader," President Rupp said. "He recognizes the opportunities for collaborations among Engineering, Columbia College and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, as well as with other professional schools. I salute his leadership and look forward to working with him and his faculty colleagues to move the School of Engineering and Applied Science vigorously forward."

"Zvi Galil is a scholar of the first rank and one who is widely known for his scholarly and intellectual accomplishments," Provost Jonathan Cole said. "His sheer intellect, along with his incredible capacity for solving difficult problems and making difficult but fair choices, will assist him greatly in this new endeavor.

"His values place excellence and quality first, and that is entirely consistent with our shared view of Columbia. Zvi Galil will lead the School to still greater distinction and we welcome him to the deanship."

Donald Goldfarb, who served as acting dean, will return to his post as professor and chairman of the Department of Industrial Engineering and Operations Research. President Rupp and Provost Cole both expressed their gratitude for his contributions to the School and the University as acting dean.

Dr. Galil said he saw enormous opportunities to create and expand programs in the School, which he said enjoys three principal advantages.

"The engineering school is in a special position. We can take advantage of Columbia's multidimensional intellectual strengths, both in the arts and sciences and in the professional schools, in both teaching and research," he said. "We are a small engineering school, but we have enormous resources on which to draw.

"Our second advantage is our location in New York City, which harbors major centers of business and industry and is the locus of the emerging multimedia industry. All major components of that industry--information, communication and entertainment--are headquartered here.

"Finally, Columbia is a globally-oriented university and has become even more international in the scope of its research activities in recent years. In an increasingly interconnected world, the University and its schools have a greater opportunity to attract students from all over the world.

"The future of the School of Engineering and Applied Science lies in developing interdisciplinary programs in research and education," he said. "I hope to facilitate such collaboration to help overcome barriers both within the School and within the University."

Dr. Galil, who came to Columbia in 1982 as professor of computer science from his post as professor and chairman of computer science at Tel Aviv University, is the author of more than 200 research papers in refereed journals and is editor of a book, Computational Algorithms on Strings. His most notable contributions are fast graph algorithms and efficient string processing algorithms. The latter, which involve a series of characters called a string, are important not only in computer science but also in signal processing and molecular biology. Scientists working to decode the human genome, for example, use an algorithm Dr. Galil developed to quickly compare known strings of DNA with newly decoded DNA, a valuable tool in sequencing the genome, which is thought to have three billion nucleotides arranged in double helices.

His other research interests include lower bounds, the mathematical determination of the minimum resources needed to solve certain computational tasks; cryptography, including the devising of protocols that could, for example, prevent sabotage or cheating in commercial transactions conducted between computers; and the development of computational techniques for optimum experimental design.

Born in Tel Aviv, Dr. Galil received the B.Sc. and M.Sc. degrees, both in applied mathematics and both summa cum laude, from Tel Aviv University in 1970 and 1971 respectively. He received the Ph.D. degree in computer science from Cornell in 1975.

After conducting a year of postdoctoral research at the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, N.Y., he returned to Tel Aviv in 1976 to accept an appointment to the computer science faculty at his alma mater. He was named full professor in 1981 and served as chairman of the Tel Aviv computer science department from 1979 to 1982.

At Columbia, Dr. Galil helped obtain funding redesignation for the University's Center for Advanced Technology, allying the computer science department with the Department of Medical Informatics at Columbia's Health Sciences Division. The Center, which had existed since 1983, in 1994 obtained a commitment of $1 million a year for 10 years from the New York State Science and Technology Foundation to create high performance information systems for the health care marketplace.

Under his chairmanship, the undergraduate curriculum was redesigned and undergraduate computer science enrollments increased. He initiated two new master of science degrees, in collaboration with the Graduate School of Business and the Department of Electrical Engineering. He started the computer science department's successful Theory Days, which twice a year gather leading experts from around the world to discuss research issues.

As chairman, Dr. Galil was able to double the Department's unrestricted funding and won a $3.4 million infrastructure grant from the National Science Foundation. He has hired three young faculty and has supervised 14 doctoral candidates.

He was named editor-in-chief of the SIAM Journal on Computing, published by the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, in 1992, and has been editor-in-chief of the Journal of Algorithms since 1988. He serves on three other editorial boards and is a referee for a dozen more. He is a member and former chair of the Association for Computing Machinery's Special Interest Group in Automata and Computability Theory, the international organization of theoretical computer science, and was elected a Fellow of the Association this year. Dr. Galil is a frequent speaker at computer science conferences, and has delivered more than 150 talks in 20 countries.

Dr. Galil and his wife, Bella Gorenstein Galil, a marine biologist, have one son, Yair, and live in Manhattan. Now 17, Yair is a senior at Columbia College.