This is the second in a series of four pieces that feature personal profiles of the new faculty at UT Computer Science.
For new Assistant Professor Eric Price the interest in computer science dates back to his days of high school Olympiad. This math-based competition sparked the interest in computer science for the Virginia native and has taken him on the path that has led him to UT Computer Science.
“Computer science is a way you can do math and have it actually matter,” Eric said. “I have always liked to do math type stuff.”
Eric completed both his undergrad and, most recently in 2013, his Ph.D. in computer science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was additionally a postdoctoral research fellow at the Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing and the IBM Almaden Research Center.
An affinity for math and the eagerness to learn has allowed Eric to excel in his research. Fields that he has explored include sparse recovery, compressive sensing, and sparse Fourier sampling. His research focuses on Fast Fourier Transform and how to make it faster.
Fast Fourier Transform is a Fast Fourier algorithm that reduces the number of computations needed to make the algorithm even faster. Fourier transforms take a signal and expresses it in terms of the frequency waves that make up that signal. It is easiest to think about it in terms of sounds, like for instance playing a piano. When a key is played you hear a sound but don’t see the air moving back and forth. The goal is to find out how many samples are needed from the potential in the air to figure out how many frequencies are being played with each key.
Eric’s research has been featured in Technology Review’s list of 10 breakthrough technologies of 2012. He has received the George M. Sprowls award for best doctoral thesis in computer science at MIT.
His work expands beyond Fast Fourier. Eric is the co-creator of NewsDiffs, which tracks changes made on articles after they are published. NewsDiffs has been cited several times by the New York Times to reference old versions of its own articles.
When Eric is not working on his research or teaching, he pays tribute to his roots by being an Olympiad coach. His interests range far outside of just the computer science spectrum though.
This past summer he and a colleague rode their bikes over 800 miles from Spain to Germany. Eric also says he has recently been interested in puzzles after winning this year’s MIT Mystery Hunt, an international renowned puzzle competition. As the winner of the competition, Eric must now create the puzzles for the next mystery hunt this upcoming January.
In the future Eric hopes to continue his research and teach algorithms. He feels that teaching is not only a way to share his research but also a way for him to continue to better learn it.
“In teaching it you learn it better and more carefully,” Eric said. “It’s more complimentary to the research. A student will ask a question and I will go “Oh I didn’t think of that” and it just gives me a new angle of the research to look into and think about.”