Faculty Profile: Luis Ceze
Luis Ceze is working to make computer systems "greener." EnerJ, a new system coming out of his lab, has the potential to reduce a computer program's energy consumption by up to 90%. Luis leads the UW’s Safe MultiProcessing Architectures group and is a Microsoft Research Fellow and a Sloan Foundation Research Fellow.
- B.S., Electrical Engineering, Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil
- M.S., Electrical Engineering, Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil
- Ph.D., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2007
What inspired you to pursue computer science and engineering?
After I completed my undergraduate research, I was hired to help with the Blue Gene Machine (an IBM super-computer), which, for awhile, was the fastest computer. That was a big project and it’s what really got me excited about designing computers and computer architecture.
What is your research focus?
Basically, computer architecture is how to design a system that meets the need of the application. That can include microprocessors, operating systems and so on—basically the entire design system. It’s like being any kind of architect; you have to think about the user and the application of the product and then match the design to serve those purposes.
One of our flagship projects right now is rethinking how to program and design computers to be more energy efficient. The more perfect a computer runs, the more energy it requires. One idea we’re working on is to is to allow small errors in the programming—ones that aren’t catastrophic and users won’t notice. Like watching a video on your computer, if a few pixels are wrong, the viewer won’t notice, but it saves energy. So we invented a way to create disciplined sloppiness in the programming that saves energy, but doesn’t corrupt anything important.
What has been a highlight of your career?
In terms of research, something that stands out is when we realized we could make parallel computers (such as the multicore processors in notebooks, iPads, etc.) "behave" better. One of the big problems with parallel computers is when you run them multiple times, they can behave wildly different each time even when given the same input. We were able to make them react the same each time, which really changes how you write and debug programs. That was a technical highlight.
What are some things on the horizon of computer science that excite you?
I’m really excited about computer architecture applied to biological systems. For example, using tiny, tiny computers to sit inside a human cell that can potentially do things such as determine when a drug is delivered into the system or monitor the health of cells, such as whether they’re cancerous. It could open a lot of applications in the health field, besides being incredibly cool. I am also very excited about designing very energy efficient computers that could potentially be powered off energy harvested from the environment (no batteries or cords!).
What advice would you offer someone pursuing engineering in general or computer science specifically?
Find people that you like to work with. That’s what affected me the most in how I ended up in this field and how I conduct research today. Working on the Blue Gene project and liking my colleagues inspired me to stay in the same field of study.
What do you like to do in your free time?
My main hobby is experimenting with food, and eating interesting things of course. I love to spend time in the kitchen, and think of new gadgets we could build to cook with and try new techniques and ingredients. Normally when I travel, I fill my suitcase with exotic ingredients—that can cross the border, of course! I like playing with molecular-gastronomy, which uses scientific methods to cook. The Northwest is very much a foodie place and that’s one of the things that attracted me here.