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Mickens named Harvard College Professor

Five-year appointment provides support for professional development

photo of James Mickens

James Mickens,  Professor of Computer Science (Photo courtesy of Eliza Grinnell/Harvard SEAS)

James Mickens, the Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Science at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering (SEAS), has been named a Harvard College Professor by Claudine Gay, the Edgerley Family Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

Launched in 1997 through the support of John and Frances Loeb, the five-year appointment provides support for professional development, in the form of research or scholarly activities and a semester of paid leave or a summer salary. 

Mickens’ research breaks into two parts: the design, implementation, and optimization of complex pieces of software, and system hacking, defense, and data protection.

“I love teaching,” Mickens said, adding it was the reason he left the private sector, where he was a researcher at Microsoft, and joined Harvard. “I like mentoring. I like forming those long-term teaching relationships with students, seeing them graduate, and then continuing to stay in touch after they go into the real world. I try to put a lot of effort into making sure that the students have fun in the classroom, but they’re still challenged, and they’re still getting pushed intellectually.”

Each spring, Mickens teaches an operating systems class that teaches students how the underlying core software that supports all of a computer’s functions enables applications to do things, such as communicating with remote web servers, storing data locally, drawing complicated graphics and visuals, and more. “I really like teaching that class because it gives students a much deeper understanding of how their computers work,” he said.

Ju Yon Kim, professor of English, and Khaled El-Rouayheb, the James Richard Jewett Professor of Islamic Intellectual History and chair of the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, also received appointments this year.

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