Jennifer Widom, a professor of computer science and of electrical engineering at Stanford University for more than two decades, became dean of the School of Engineering in March 2017.
A distinguished researcher in data and information management, Widom with her group pioneered foundations and software systems for many nontraditional types and applications of data, including active databases, semi-structured data, data streams, uncertain data and data provenance. By placing all of her group’s prototype software in the public domain and providing technical advice to companies both big and small, she has influenced a wide swath of commercial data management and analysis tools over the years.
Widom is an Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Fellow and a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. She received the ACM-W Athena Lecturer Award in 2015, the ACM SIGMOD Edgar F. Codd Innovations Award in 2007 and a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2000.
Her research long predates the term “big data” and the recognition that data collection and analysis are critical to many aspects of scholarship and society. The increasing relevance of her own research area makes Widom particularly attuned to ways in which scholars of engineering and computer science can partner with others in a wide variety of fields.
Widom is also an innovator in engineering education. She taught one of Stanford’s first massive open online courses (MOOCs) and spent her 2016-17 sabbatical traveling the world teaching computer science in developing countries. Most recently she served as senior associate dean in the School of Engineering, where she co-led a long-range planning effort with colleague Arun Majumdar to map the future trajectory of one of the world’s leading engineering schools.
Widom, the Fletcher Jones Professor in Computer Science and professor of electrical engineering, served as chair of the Department of Computer Science from 2009 to 2014 and senior associate dean for faculty and academic affairs in the School of Engineering from 2014 to 2016. She received her bachelor’s degree in music from the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music in 1982, and her computer science doctorate from Cornell University in 1987. Before joining the Stanford faculty in 1993, Widom was a researcher at the IBM Almaden Research Center in San Jose.
Widom took a year off in 2007 to travel the world with her family when her two children were young. Her husband, Professor Alex Aiken, is currently the chair of the Department of Computer Science at Stanford, having succeeded Widom in that role in 2014. In addition to her husband, two of Widom’s family members are prominent scholars: Her father, Harold Widom, is a professor emeritus of mathematics at the University of California, Santa Cruz; her uncle Benjamin Widom is a professor emeritus of chemistry and chemical biology at Cornell University.