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Last modified: Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Geoffrey Fox

Distinguished Professor

Distinguished Professor of Informatics, Computing, and Physics, and Director of the Digital Science Center, Pervasive Technology Institute
School of Informatics and Computing
College of Arts and Sciences
University Graduate School
Indiana University Bloomington
Appointed to IU faculty, 2001
B.A., Cambridge University, 1964
M.A., Cambridge University, 1968
Ph.D., Cambridge University, 1967

Geoffrey Fox began his career at the California Institute of Technology and taught there for 20 years before joining the Indiana University faculty in 2001. During his career he has supervised more than 60 Ph.D. theses, published around 700 papers, and received tens of millions of dollars in grant funding. His impact, however, at the leading edge of Web 2.0 services such as social networking, distributed computing, parallel processing, dataintensive computing, and computational science and engineering has more to do with quality than quantity.

Fox is associate dean for graduate studies and research in the IU School of Informatics and Computing, and he serves as director of the Digital Science Center at the Pervasive Technology Institute. A founding member of the National Science Foundation's Center for Research on Parallel Computation, Fox has produced work on parallel computation that is recognized as the start of the revolution in scalable scientific computing and thus has influenced the design and programming of virtually every high-end supercomputer in use today.

That influence is expansive, affecting earthquake and polar science, chemical informatics, Department of Defense computing environments, particle physics, and especially, the architectures that dominate high-performance computers and supercomputers.

"Every aspect of Geoffrey's work has been of the highest quality, and he has made unique and important contributions in many areas of science and technology," says University of Florida Physics Professor Rick Field. "He is also one of the best teachers I have ever known. Over the years I have had the opportunity to work with many excellent scientists, including five Nobel Prize winners, and Geoffrey's accomplishments rank among the very best."

During his undergraduate studies he had the opportunity to work in a laboratory led by Nobel Prize-winner Francis Crick, who is credited with co-discovering the DNA molecule; then his interest in particle physics and specifically the intensive physics problems tied to quantum chromodynamics led him to develop ideas for hypercube parallel computing. That research set in motion the Caltech Cosmic Cube Project, a system that recognized the value of the microprocessor in assembling modest-priced practical parallel computers.

In his book Parallel Computing Works, he pioneered a new way of designing a series of basic algorithms that today remain the standard for supercomputing, and in turn created a programming style that led to the Message Passing Interface standard in use today on all the largest supercomputers. "As a leader in computational science, Geoffrey has always been at the forefront of change," says Dennis Gannon, director of Research Engagements at Microsoft Research and formerly chair of IU's Department of Computer Science. "I consider this [recruitment] one of my most valuable contributions in my 23 years at Indiana University."

Fox's commitment to advancing the field of computer science is well established, as his publications, research results, and professional community activities can attest, but for those who have worked with Fox over the decades, no thorough retrospective of his work is complete without referencing his dedication to teaching and mentoring.

He has pioneered the use of Object Web technologies to build collaboration systems that are then applied to an integrated approach to synchronous and asynchronous distance education. These technologies have benefited minority-serving institutions such as Jackson State University and the American Indian Tribal Colleges. His strong support for the Minority Serving Institutions' Cyberinfrastructure Empowerment Coalition is considered one of the best examples of how a single computer science professor can have an impact on numerous institutions with predominantly African American, Hispanic, and Native American enrollments, according to Larry Smarr, the Harry Gruber Professor in the University of California San Diego's Department of Computer Science and Engineering. "His service to the profession through mentoring students and to the national community through his support for minority-serving institutions is outstanding," Smarr says.

Fox brings communities of experts together to solve critical problems, as in his work with the international nonprofit Open Grid Forum, which creates standards for seamless operation of supercomputers. He also demonstrates a strong commitment to student mentoring and teaching. Paul Messina, director of science at Argonne National Laboratory's Leadership Computing Facility, calls Fox "a visionary," saying he "is able to implement his visions, documents them in scholarly publications, identifies the essential issues and abstracts them, and inspires and nurtures his students and colleagues."