Jeremy Elson's Life Story
The Short Version
In May 2003, I graduated from UCLA
with a Ph.D. in Computer Science.
Since then, I have continued working with my advisor as in a postdoc-ish
staff researcher position at UCLA, in the Center for Embedded Networked Sensing.
At some point in the next year I'll be looking for tenure-track
faculty positions in computer science.
My work and research interests lie primarily
in networking: distributed and collaborative systems, and protocol
design; with some software engineering thrown in so that I can
implement these things.
I grew up in Bethesda, Maryland (a suburb of Washington, DC), where I
lived until I moved to Baltimore in Fall of 1991 to attend Johns Hopkins University. My original
plan was to go into medicine, but I eventually became disenchanted
with the idea. I had been using and programming computers as a hobby
ever since I was a child, but in college I learned to appreciate CS
theory. I realized that I had real aptitude for computer science and
decided it was something that I'd really enjoy as a real
career, not just a hobby.
Hopkins wasn't typically considered to be among the very best CS
schools at the time, but I think that I got an absolutely first class
CS education there. My studies encompassed a wide variety of topics
with an excellent balance of theoretical and practical training --
something which unfortunately seems pretty rare these days. I became
fascinated by computer networks and started to ravenously consume all
of the information I could find on the subject: the inner workings of
LANs and WANs, network protocols and algorithms, and methods of
writing network software (distributed and collaborative systems). I
also was involved in various research projects on campus, and did a
lot of teaching for the CS department's C and C++ classes.
I took a semester's leave of absence in Spring of 1995 because of the
unexpected sudden growth of my somewhat whimsical company, Scholastic Matchmakers, and returned to
Hopkins for a 5th year in Fall of 1995. I graduated in May of 1996, then took 3
months off to live in Jerusalem, Israel. There, I learned modern
Hebrew at the Hebrew University of
Jerusalem, in their Immersion
After returning to the U.S. in September of 1996, I went to work full
time at the National Institutes of
Health in Bethesda. (I was certainly not new to NIH, having
worked there every summer from 1990 to 1995 on various projects that
integrate medicine and computers.) My work at the NIH was really
interesting, but after a while I began to miss the academic life--both
learning and teaching. I decided to go back to school, and applied to
Ph.D. programs in computer science.
I finally decided on the University of
Southern California where I started studies in Fall of 1998 in
their computer science
department. Specifically, I was working jointly (as most USC
network students do) in the Computer Network and Distributed Systems
Laboratory and USC's famous Information Sciences Institute under
the direction of Prof. Deborah
Estrin. (I also was able to scratch my teaching itch---at least
temporarily---as the TA for USC's Operating Systems class.)
I received an M.S. in Computer Science from USC in December of 1999.
In the summer of 2000, my advisor decided to move from USC to the CS department at University of California, Los Angeles.
6 of her graduate
students went with her (including me); those who were very close
to graduation stayed at USC. All of us continue to do joint research
back at ISI. Unfortunately there is
quite a rivalry between USC and UCLA in this small town of Los
Angeles. Not having grown up here, I was mostly oblivious to it at
first. But, crossing from USC to UCLA (and maintaining an affiliation
with both) has been an interesting experience. I sometimes mess up
and wear the wrong sweatshirt; this does not go over well.
My research is mostly centered around coordination and synchronization
algorithms for massive-scale networks of small, low-powered devices
("sensornets" or "micronets"). Check out my work
page for more details.
When I'm not working...
So much of this site is devoted to my technical or work-related life
that I decided it was a good idea to spend a page or two describing
other things that I do, too.
-- I earned my Private Pilot license in June 2003. Learning to fly is
one of the most spectacular and incredible things I've ever done.
This hobby appeals to me on so many levels. It's an intellectual
challenge while being a visceral thrill. It requires knowing
thousands of little details, but friends can appreciate and enjoy it
without understanding them. It's a fine motor skill that requires
subtlety and grace, but you're moving a machine that weighs thousands
of pounds. It's a portal to unique and breathtaking views of both
city and countryside, but is also a practical tool for transportation.
What more can you ask? (Maybe that it's cheap.)
I fly a couple of times a week, and currently am working on my
- Cycling -- I live a few hundred yards from a bike
path that stretches along 20 miles of Southern California
coastline. How can you live here and not be adddicted to
using it? I ride the length of it on most Sundays, and typically
commute to work via bike as well. No pictures yet.
- Cooking -- I have developed quite a passion for cooking in the
past couple of years. I think it appeals to me because I feel like
it's about as far as you can get from being a computer scientist.
It's also my only hobby that allows me artistic expression. And, I
think there's something romantic about putting so much work into
something that is so ephemeral: spend an entire day cooking, and the
result---for better or for worse---is gone in an hour. (Spend the
day writing software, on the other hand, and
you can spend the rest of your life responding to bug reports.)
- Running -- I used to run a lot, but these days, I generally
prefer biking instead. I do still run during the winter, when the
days are shorter and it's harder to get a bike ride in while the sun
is up. My thesis advisor runs the LA Marathon every year but
never quite convinced me to run it with her.
- Sailing -- I'm reasonably good at sailing small boats, but
usually don't get a chance to except during our annual summer trip to
- Free software -- I write and
occasionally make time to maintain quite a few free software packages.
Some of them have become fairly widely used, and I get patches
and help requests all the time. Unfortunately, work
so much of the software-writing portions of my brain that I haven't
devoted as much attention to these programs as they deserve. I
wish I had time to implement every feature people ask for, fix every
bug reported, and answer
every email requesting help. Usually I end up filing them away
for another day.
- Racquetball -- I inherited a love for this sport from my Dad.
I've got some game, but never really worked at it hard enough to
get very good. I played a lot while I was at USC (1998-2000)
because I lived right near the athletic center, but since moving
to Santa Monica I haven't played at all. Too bad, because it's
- Hebrew -- I worked really hard to learn conversational Hebrew in
college, and in the immersion Ulpan program I took for 3 months while
living in Israel. Over the years I've occasionally taken a class,
but, sadly, I've let this skill atrophy recently.
- Ham Radio -- My
friend Guy (Shechter) introduced
me to Ham radio in college, around 1995. I got a radio license, which
involved learning the phonetic alphabet (Alpha, Bravo, Charlie...)
and Morse code. These skills went largely unused for a number of
years but came in very handy in 2002 while learning how to fly. My
favorite part of being a Ham was working public service events, e.g.,
providing communication support for marathons or bike tours. I'd love
to go back to doing those again, someday.
The Somewhat Longer Version
If you're interested, you can read a somewhat longer, more detailed version of my life
story. (It's not done yet, though... sorry!)
Back to my home page
Last updated 25 June 2003