Landmark Contributions by Students in Computer Science

August 28th, 2009 by Ed Lazowska Post a comment »

There are many reasons for research funding agencies (DARPA, NSF, etc.) to invest in the education of students. Producing the next generation of innovators is the most obvious one. In addition, though, there are an impressive number of instances in our field in which undergraduate and graduate students have made truly game-changing contributions in the course of their studies.

The inspiring list in the attached PDF was compiled by the following individuals and their colleagues: Bill Bonvillian (MIT), Susan Graham (Berkeley), Anita Jones (University of Virginia), Ed Lazowska (University of Washington), Pat Lincoln (SRI), Fred Schneider (Cornell), and Victor Zue (MIT).

We solicit your suggestions for additional student contributions of comparable impact – add them as comments below and email them to Ed Lazowska.

Here’s the list!


  • peter honeyman

    As a graduate student, Howes created the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol, the Internet standard for directories.

    Not only did he invent LDAP, which later formed the centerpiece of his PhD dissertation, he was sole PI on the NSF grant that sponsored the research!

  • peter honeyman

    Tim Howes. Blerg.

  • Craig Partridge

    Remote Procedure Call. Bruce Nelson largely solved the problems in his doctoral dissertation (1981 at CMU) and then went on to write the paper widely considered the paper that made RPC a core tool for distributed systems with Andy Birrell in 1984.

  • http://www.cs.columbia.edu/~smb Steven M. Bellovin

    Public key certificates (Kornfelder, 1978, MIT)

  • http://www.twitter.com/yarapavan Pavan Yara

    Luis Von Ahn – CAPTCHA system. First used the term “human computation” in his 2005 CMU PhD Thesis.

  • http://www.facebook.com/brew.chris Chris Brew

    Ian Clarke’s student work at Edinburgh introduced FreeNet, and is both very analogous to and roughly contemporaneous with Shawn Fanning’s peer-to-peer work, which you already reference.

  • ali0482

    My attitude about threads Java is different because the language has supported the concept of threads since day one. It’s still tricky to do threads correctly in Java, but not as painful as it is in C++.