Carnegie Mellon University

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May 11, 2012

Q&A: Griss Shares Decade of Success at Silicon Valley Campus

By Sylvia Leong

GrissMartin L. Griss, director of Carnegie Mellon Silicon Valley, has nearly 40 years of experience in software development, education and research. In 2009, he succeeded James Morris, founding dean of Carnegie Mellon Silicon Valley. At the time, Griss said the demand for faster, leaner and more mobile information technology would continue to grow, and it has. As the campus prepares to celebrate its 10th anniversary, the Piper caught up with Griss to talk about its developments in education and research and the impact the program has had on the technology capital of the world.

What are some of the major accomplishments and milestones for the campus?

In the past 10 years, we have grown dramatically. We launched the campus in 2002 with 56 students and one research project, and now we have nearly 200 students, more than 600 alumni and a thriving research program that covers many applications ranging from disaster management to mobility software. We are well connected and recognized within the Silicon Valley ecosystem with projects and students from many companies across the technology spectrum.

In your opinion, in what area has the campus made the greatest impact?

We've had several areas of impact due to our leading edge research and education.

I'd say the greatest impact has been with the graduates we produce as a direct result of our innovative teaching. We have pioneered a style of education here that is being recognized by other institutions as one of the most effective ways to learn. We avoided the traditional lecture style, favoring instead a team and project-oriented learn-by-doing methodology. Students work on authentic projects leading to skills that are immediately transferrable to the workplace. We combine strong technical academics with business and organizational skills so the students graduate as software leaders, making an impact in the Valley.

With so many graduates from our program, we can easily see our fingerprints all over the Silicon Valley.

What types of students attend? What companies or fields do the students come from?

We have full-time and part-time programs here at the Silicon Valley campus. Our full-time programs attract students worldwide, who come to our campus for graduate degrees in software engineering; software management and entrepreneurship; electrical and computer engineering; and information technology.

Our part-time program primarily attracts local software professionals, but due to our remote learning capability, we also have students who participate from other locations. Many of our students come from software-intensive companies or backgrounds and from local, national and international locations.

We love seeing how our students are a true reflection of the industry that surrounds them - diverse, smart, coming from start-ups, mid-size companies and large enterprises.

What are some of the current research projects at Carnegie Mellon Silicon Valley?

Most of our research projects are related to the emerging mobile digital lifestyle and the web of things. Just recently, it was reported that more than 50 percent of the mobile phones in the U.S. are smartphones - this demonstrates a radical shift in how people communicate and collaborate with social media, and access the Internet, services and data. Leveraging our strengths in mobile applications, wireless sensors, machine learning, big data, cloud computing, natural language, networking and security, we are able to address a wide range of important problems that have arisen in this new age. The synergy between these areas allows us to innovate in societal areas such as disaster management, mobile education, smart buildings, energy management and health.

Where do you see the Silicon Valley campus going in the future?

As the West Coast outpost for Carnegie Mellon, we see ourselves as critical to the university's long-term goals. We have started entrepreneurship programs that are connected back to the main campus, in direct response to student feedback. We have created collaborative research and educational programs that are now thriving. I can only anticipate that this will continue to grow, especially as we engage more with Silicon Valley.

In fact, we have expanded into a new building on campus, with plans to build even more classrooms, faculty offices, labs and student spaces. Because we are so connected in Silicon Valley and have our finger on the pulse of what the new technology trends are, we are able to quickly adapt and grow new programs and projects that connect us to the newly emerging needs.

Are some of the founding industry partners still involved, and if so in what way?

Some of our earliest partners include Ericsson, Nokia and Panasonic. With each of these companies the relationships have grown. Some of our students have been hired by these companies, and the companies continue to sponsor practicums and research projects. Interestingly enough, they came to the Silicon Valley shortly after we did, to establish their mobile and networking research centers here - the home of mobile innovation. Because of our focus on mobility research, they quickly recognized us as a key partner in their research endeavors and we have been able to grow with them. Now we have dozens of corporate partnerships, not only in mobility but in a whole variety of technology.

It Takes a Village

When Carnegie Mellon Silicon Valley was formed, a number of people from the university and industry helped from the outset. They include:*


Chuck Geschke (S'73)
Chairman & President, Adobe Systems, Inc.

Raymond J. Lane
General Partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

Microsoft Research
Represented by John Spencer

Eric Schmidt (H'09)
Chairman and CEO, Google, Inc.

Sunil Wadhwani (TPR'76)
CEO and Co-Founder, iGATE, Inc.


Gordon Bell (H'09)
Senior Researcher, Microsoft, Telepresence Research Group

David Coulter (TPR'71)
Vice Chairman, Chase Manhattan Corp.

Ali Kutay
Chairman, President and CEO, AltoWeb, Inc.

Drew Perkins
Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer, Infinera Corp.

Raj Reddy
Director, West Coast Campus, Carnegie Mellon

Steve Wozniak
Co-Founder, Apple Computer
Founder, CEO, and Chairman, Wheels of Zeus
Founder and President, Unuson
Los Gatos, Calif.


Andreas V. Bechtolsheim (E'76)
Head, Workgroup Business Unit
Cisco Systems, Inc.,

Adam Beguelin
NeoPyx Corp.,
San Carlos, Calif.

Scott Dietzen (S'84, '88)
Chief Technology Officer, BEA Systems, Inc.

Ed Frank (S'85)
Vice President for Engineering, Broadcom Corp.
Home Networking Division

Mark Kamlet
Executive Vice President and Provost, Carnegie Mellon

Jim Mitchell (S'71)
Vice President, Sun Laboratories

Gordon Moore (H'01)
Chairman Emeritus, Intel Corp.

Jim Morris (S'53)
Dean, School of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon

Scott Russell (S'82)
Managing Director, Mobious Venture Capital

Executive Members / SCS Alumni Advisory Board
Eric Daimler (DC'94, CS'10)
CEO & Founder, Triangle Peak, Inc.

Jonathan S. Goldick (S'88, E'89)
Chief Architect, Agile Storage, Inc.

Philip L. Lehman (S'78, '84)
Senior Vice President, WISDOM Technologies, Inc.,

Chris Maeda (CS'92, '97)
Chief Technology Officer, Kana Communications