Faculty Spotlight: Panos K. Chrysanthis, Professor
Dr. Panos K. Chrysanthis became officially the ninth full Professor in our Department on 1.1.2004. He is the co-director of the the Advanced Data Management Technologies (ADMT) lab which focuses on innovative theories, paradigms, and applications in network-centric data management. Panos started the ADMT lab twelve years ago under the name database group when he was hired as an assistant professor with the expectation of bringing a new strength in database research to the Computer Science Department (CSD). He joined the CSD immediately after completing his PhD degree at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Besides the theoretical investigation of his PhD dissertation on modeling and reasoning about extended transactions, he brought along his experience of developing Gutenberg, a prototype distributed operating system, from his MS project (UMass, Amherst) and data stream filters from his BS thesis (U. of Athens, Greece). As he says, he was one of the last two faculty hires at the end of the “second renaissance of the CSD, during which AI research was established and Data Management research was re-founded in broader basis in the CSD.”
On reflection, Panos said that he has met the expectation of his hiring to a great extent and, smiling, he adds, “I must have met it and the proof is that I was promoted to Associate Professor and given tenure in 1997 and now I was again promoted to full and given a raise.” He recalls the Fall of 1991, his very first term at Pitt, during which he created his first grad course on the Principles of Database Systems, revised the undergrad course on database systems with projects on the commercial Rdb database server (nowadays Oracle Rdb), wrote his first successful NSF proposal on the interoperation of heterogeneous and autonomous database systems, and spent long hours installing Latex on his new workstation. Since then, Panos developed and taught new grad and undergrad database courses and a series of PhD seminars on distributed database systems, mobile computing, Internet middleware, and the more recent one on sensor networks and data streams. These seminars provided the material for his book (1997) and several contributed book chapters, in addition to inspiring his students’ lines of research that go beyond traditional database issues. Panos enjoys teaching as much as research. He also points out that his ADMT lab has acted as a local umbrella for research seminars over the years. Panos co-started the joint Pitt/CMU database seminar in 1999, with Christos Faloutsos of CMU. The seminar, which is still going on today, brings together researchers from the greater Pittsburgh area.
After his first NSF award, the award that shaped Panos’ research at Pitt was the prestigious NSF CAREER award (1995) for his investigation on the management of data for mobile and wireless computing. “The CAREER led to the assignment of physical lab space for the ADMT lab that enabled my students and me to experiment with new hardware and software technologies; we established the first wireless LAN at Pitt and experimented with data sharing paradigms from handheld devices and with mobile agents.” It has also sparked a lot of successful collaborations with other groups within the CSD and within Pitt, for example, Sujata Banerjee’s network group in SIS and Martha Pollack’s AI group in CS. More recent collaborations include the RODS project (that monitors in real-time for outbreak of diseases) with the Center for Biomedical Informatics and the S-CITI project (secure IT infrastructure for disaster management) between the CSD and GSPIA. The research accomplishments of his lab have been published in over 100 well-cited papers in top journals and in prestigious conferences and workshops in the field. He plans to continue this collaborative style of research with the motivation of producing new technology from first principles to address the data management challenges of pervasive computing environments.
Panos liked the community spirit among the faculty and the open-door policy, which continues until today, making the CSD a great environment to work in. Panos is very proud of what the CSD has accomplished over the last 10 years, with the new building and its current research and teaching infrastructure that is comparable to that of top universities in the country. He is even more optimistic now than ever before for the CSD’s future, a future that he has discussed for many hours with his colleagues, especially Rajiv Gupta and Daniel Mosse during some tough times and budget crises. Panos said that he enjoys being promoted as part of this new renaissance of the CSD with nine new, very energetic assistant professors.
Everyone who knows Panos also knows of his community involvement, his willingness to serve as an editor, conference or program chair, or as a member of an academic committee. Dr. Rami Melhem, the Department Chair, described Panos’ contribution to the CSD community as follows: “Panos has been a very valuable member in the CSD. For the last few years, he chaired the graduate admission and financial aid committee very effectively and he always has excellent suggestions for improving the research and teaching environments in the CSD. He is a first rate researcher and a dedicated teacher.”
In retrospect, Panos feels lucky, having good professors, good mentors, good collaborators, and also good students, who often worked “Greek hours” (until early in the morning). He strongly believes that we owe a lot to our teachers as well as to our students who often act as our teachers. Panos’ life has been greatly influenced by his parents, especially his father, Kypros Chrysanthis, who also pursued scientific exploration and knowledge, himself being a medical doctor (with a PhD in pediatrics), a gifted teacher, and a prolific writer nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature. Panos’ father taught him values, high standards, the pursuit of excellence, and the pursuit of the common good.
Panos has celebrated his promotion with a trip to Athens for the Olympic Games. It must have been a deserving reward for him and the most important persons in his life, his spouse and his daughter, based on his description: “The Games were fantastic, a once-in-a-lifetime experience for all of us to be part of this celebration of the world’s human spirit!”