From Rice to Penn with Andreas Haeberlen

AndreasHaeberlen-CIS_1.2010_DSC0106 Andreas Haeberlen, the Raj and Neera Singh Assistant Professor for computer and information science at the University of Pennsylvania, said Rice was one of his top grad school choices in 2003. “I was already in systems and wanted to work with one of the top people in the field,” he said, “and that included Peter Druschel at Rice.”

About halfway through Haeberlen’s PhD program, Druschel moved to Germany. Haeberlen said, “Peter got the offer [to be the founding director of the new Max Planck Institute for Software Systems] so I finished my PhD for Rice while working in Germany.” Before leaving Houston, he had already taken four semesters of Chinese and developed an affinity for Texas barbecue, especially the brisket at Goode Co BBQ on Kirby Drive. “I went to Rice because of Peter,” he said, “but then I discovered the wonderful campus and the diversity of Houston.”

He also discovered how to become a better mentor and instructor. “Peter was a fantastic adviser and he really cared about his PhD students. Dave Johnson’s Operating Systems class was a lot of fun. And Dan Wallach taught us about security with hands-on projects, such as having us create electronic voting machines, hide back doors in them, then try to find other people’s back doors and attempt to manipulate their results.”

Haeberlen incorporates projects like those in his classes at Penn. “It is really, really important not only to tell students about the material, but also to show how exciting it is,” he said. “For instance, I didn’t know much about artificial intelligence initially before I took Devika Subramanian’s class, but Devika was really enthusiastic about it, and it showed in her lectures. That got me excited about it too, and I try to bring that same kind of excitement to my students.”

Penn students took notice of Haeberlen’s determination to inspire them. In April 2016, they nominated and voted him the winner of the Ford Motor Company Award for Faculty Advising. The award recognizes dedication to helping students realize their educational, career and personal goals. “He is an engaging lecturer who makes these complex topics easy to understand and consistently has students working on real applications,” one of Dr. Haeberlen’s students noted.

Haeberlen’s research focus still includes distributed systems, but he’s been added other interests, including networking, security, and privacy. “There are lots of interesting collaborators here at Penn,” he said, “and I like bringing in different areas — like theory, programming, databases, cyberphysical systems. Even during my first day of interviews at Penn, I was already talking with a professor there about using data provenance to find compromised computers, and that turned in to a multi-year research project on computer security.”

Recently, Haeberlen was invited to return to Rice for an alumni seminar series organized by Wallach. “I had worked with Dan on a paper, my first big conference paper in fact, and I loved the idea of coming back to Rice and working with all these people I’d taken classes with,” he said. “And when Dan asked where I wanted to eat, of course I said, ‘Goode Co on Kirby!’”