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Shang-Hua Teng to Join USC As Chair of Computer Science

A theoretical computer scientist, he has broad experience in both academia and industry.
Bob Calverley
July 14, 2009 —

Shang-Hua Teng, a theoretical computer scientist with broad experience in both academia and industry, will join the USC Viterbi School Department of Computer Science as professor and chair beginning in fall 2009.

“I am thrilled to have such a distinguished scholar as Shang-Hua Teng be our new computer science department chair.  His rich experience in both academia and industry, his global ties and his leadership potential augur well for a stellar future for our department,” said Dean Yannis C. Yortsos.  “I am grateful to Professor Ellis Horowitz for serving as interim chair for the past year, and to Sandy Sawchuk, who successfully led the recruitment effort.”

Shang-Hua Teng
"I am really excited to have this opportunity to contribute to USC and the Viterbi School of Engineering,” said Teng.  “I decided to come here not just because USC is the first university that I studied at in the United States. I am coming back because the computer science department together with ISI and ICT is one of the best computer science programs in the world."

Born in Beijing, Teng earned dual undergraduate degrees, a B.S. in computer science and a B.A. in electrical engineering, from Shanghai Jiao Tong University in 1985.  Two years later he received a masters degree from USC and then his Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon University in 1991, both in computer science.

Since receiving his PhD, Teng has been a distinguished researcher and taught extensively. He was a research scientist at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, the NASA Ames Research Center, the IBM Almaden Research Center, Intel Corp., three separate Microsoft research centers and Akamai Technologies.

Immediately before coming to USC, he served as a professor of computer science at Boston University, a research affiliate professor of mathematics at MIT and a visiting professor at Tsinghua University in Beijing.  Previously, he held faculty appointments at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the University of Minnesota.

Teng is a theoretician with wide-ranging research interests, a strong record of publications, industry collaborations involving real-world products and 14 years of teaching experience at the undergraduate and graduate levels.  He has also served as editor for the Journal of Combinatorial Optimization; Journal of Computer and System Sciences, book editor for Algorithms and Computation, and has been awarded more than 10 patents. 

His most distinguished research has involved the smoothed analysis of algorithms, computational game theory, nearly linear time graph algorithms, combinatorial scientific computing, mesh generation and computational geometry and spectral graph theory and graph partitioning.

“I like interdisciplinary research and studies that intersect both theory and applications,” Teng said on his website.  “Although these topics appear to be diverse, the underlying principle of my research has been the same, that is, to understand the mathematical structure of these problems in order to design efficient algorithms and software.”

Teng has received a number of prestigious awards, including an NSF Career Award, a Sloan Fellowship, an IBM award for faculty development and the 2008 Godel Prize (awarded by ACM) for developing a rigorous framework to explain the practical success of algorithms on real data and real computers that could not be clearly understood through traditional techniques. He was also named as the top undergraduate student between 1981-1985 at Shanghai Jiao-Tong University.

Teng also has interests outside of computer science.

“I love Latin music and Latin dance, especially Salsa dancing,” he said.  “I also like cooking, reading and traveling, and enjoy solving math problems on the airplane.”

Teng’s wife Diana I. Williams, assistant professor of history at Wellesley whom he met Salsa dancing in Boston, will also be coming to USC where she will be an assistant professor of history and law.