Alumni Q&A: Dr. Manya Ghobadi joins MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory

Earlier this summer the Computer Systems & Networks Research Group congratulated research group alumni on their faculty appointments within Canada and the U.S.

Alumna Manya Ghobadi (PhD 2013), pictured right on the day of her doctoral graduation, will join Massachusetts Institute of Technology Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (MIT CSAIL) as an assistant professor this September. Dr. Ghobadi is currently a researcher with Microsoft Research Mobility and Networking.

We asked her about her time at U of T and next steps to MIT:

Tell us about your PhD research while at U of T?

At U of T, I worked on building systems to improve the status quo of congestion control in terms of end-to-end latency by taking a closer look at the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) – the main protocol of the Internet protocol suite. My advisor, [Associate] Professor Yashar Ganjali and I designed a framework that allows network operators to define congestion control policies as a function of network and traffic demand. As part of my thesis, I also studied the challenges of conducting time-sensitive network experiments and provided guidelines and tools to eliminate sources of inaccuracy in time-sensitive network experiments.

What do you remember most fondly about your time studying at U of T?

U of T is a great university and is located at the heart of Toronto, which is a vibrant and diverse city that offers many unique opportunities. I very much enjoyed living in Toronto and being part of U of T community. I was extremely fortunate to meet amazing friends and colleagues during my studies and I particularly miss the Hart House and its various events. My parents still live in Toronto, so I visit quite often and enjoy the beautiful multicultural environment of Canada's largest city.

Where did you go after finishing your doctoral studies?

A few months before finishing my thesis, I joined Google as a software engineer. I wrote my thesis at nights and weekends while developing routing and load-balancing software for Google's data center networks. Two years after that, I joined Microsoft Research and started new research directions in optical networks and hardware-software co-design.

What was the focus of your work at Microsoft Research?

At Microsoft Research I have focused on enabling cross-layer programmability in large-scale systems to optimize their efficiency and reliability. To this end, my research has traced two trajectories in the systems and networking area. The first, a body of work in optical networking, focuses on enabling programmability between the IP and the physical layers of the networking stack. The second, a body of work in congestion control, focuses on enabling programmability between the application, kernel, and Network Interface Card of the end-host stack.

What future directions excite you most as you head to MIT?

In this era of increased engagement with technology – from health, business, sciences, to our social life – computer scientists have the unique opportunity to change the world for the better. I am driven by this passion and I plan to continue seeking ways to contribute to this vision.

I enjoy finding fundamental problems in networks and systems and then using innovative, practical solutions. I believe networking research is interdisciplinary by nature, integrating low-level physical devices and high-level systems software. Hence, I intend to work closely with computer theorists, hardware engineers and industry developers to create opportunities for integration of tools and ideas for highly impactful research. It's an exciting time!