New job: Professor of computer science at CornellNYC Tech, the first academic hire for the new campus on New York City's Roosevelt Island
Position she's leaving: Distinguished professor and Jonathan B. Postel Chair in Computer Networks, University of California at Los Angeles; founding director of UCLA's Center for Embedded Networked Sensing, or CENS, supported by the National Science Foundation
Highest degree: Doctorate in computer science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
From the start, I was intrigued by the notion of a tech campus in New York City. It appealed to me as a place for innovation on embedded networked sensing systems. But it's like a Rorschach test. That's what I'm interested in, so that's what I read into the idea.
In April I was contacted by the folks at Cornell about my new job.
Cornell's computer-science department is one of the absolute top in the world. So I, of course, know the folks there and have always had huge admiration and respect for them. The fact that the Weill Cornell Medical College is in New York City was also a draw. Working directly with clinical innovators is essential to pursuing the mobile-health work that I've been doing at UCLA and will do at CornellNYC Tech.
Around 2005, mobile phones started emerging as things that you could not just talk and text on, but as devices with sensors embedded in them, like accelerometers and GPS. So my colleagues and I began looking into participatory sensing, engaging individuals in collecting data.
Over time, what emerged as the tongue-in-cheek "killer app" for this mobile-data collection was mobile health. There's a dearth of in-the-moment data from individuals that they can bring back to the physicians who are trying to optimize their treatment. So we're working with clinical professionals to personalize health care by adapting to what is actually working for an individual. Phones can help by capturing activity and mobility data on a daily basis. It's a health innovation as much as a technological one. All the work has been around co-innovation with experts and technologists, which brings us to the tech campus—which is all about that.
So much was right about this situation that it wasn't a hard decision. The vision of the tech campus is simply irresistible for me. I was in transition, with the center that I developed at UCLA winding down as the funds run out, so the timing was right. And then, having the new campus in New York City—I mean it's the city. It's the city.
My parents were both at UCLA, but they were New Yorkers. My mother still has a lot of her Brighton Beach/Brooklyn accent intact. My father was from the Bronx, and they met at City College before the war.
My whole adult life, people have always asked me if I was from New York. I'm pretty certain no one will ask me if I'm from Los Angeles once I'm there.