Announcement: Associate Provost for the Division of Data Science and Information and Dean of the School of Information

August 13, 2019

Dear campus community, 

We are very pleased to announce that Jennifer Tour Chayes, Microsoft technical fellow and managing director for Microsoft Research in New England, New York, and Montreal, has accepted our offer to become the campus’s Associate Provost for the Division of Data Science and Information and Dean of the School of Information. She will be the first permanent leader of the Division of Data Science and Information since it was established last fall, and will begin her term on January 1, 2020. Dean of Undergraduate Studies Bob Jacobsen will serve as the division of data science interim dean  for the fall semester and Associate Dean John Chuang will serve as head of the School of Information.

Data science is transforming society and the academy at an ever-accelerating pace. These transformations demand a response — for which Berkeley is uniquely suited, as a campus with extraordinary depth and excellence across a wide array of disciplines, as well as a public institution whose mission combines research, education, and service in support of the greater good. Created in response to faculty and student demand, this division is the centerpiece of a dynamic new organizational structure that will enable Berkeley faculty and students to work across boundaries to explore the foundations, applications, and implications of data science, information, and computation in a way that serves the interests of the public, the campus, and its academic community through a new teaching and discovery environment.

Chayes is ideally suited to provide leadership of the division.  A renowned researcher in the field of network science, she is celebrated for her work on models and algorithms that help explain the structure of the Internet, social and economic networks, and networks in computational biology. A highly prolific scholar, she is also well known for laying the foundations for the study of phase transitions in discrete mathematics and theoretical computer science, and is one of the inventors of the field of graph limits, which are used extensively in data analysis and machine learning for large-scale networks.

Outside of her own research, Chayes is an experienced research leader who founded all three of the Microsoft Research labs she currently directs. The New England lab is a multidisciplinary center that brings together computer scientists, mathematicians, physicists, social scientists, and biologists to establish new fields at the boundaries of these disciplines. The New York City lab focuses on machine learning and the social sciences, working in areas such as computational economics, computational social science, reinforcement learning, and fairness in artificial intelligence. The Montreal lab is Microsoft’s natural language processing hub, specializing in machine reading comprehension, dialogue, and reinforcement learning. Each of these labs is home to a core team of researchers as well as large groups of postdocs and distinguished visiting faculty members.

Prior to joining Microsoft Research in 1997, Chayes was a mathematics professor at UCLA for more than a decade. She received her bachelor’s degree in physics and biology from Wesleyan University and her doctoral degree in mathematical physics from Princeton. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Association of Computing Machinery, the American Mathematical Society, and the Fields Institute. She holds high honors from many other organizations associated with her disciplines, including the John von Neumann Prize of the Society of Industrial and Applied Mathematics, the highest honor in applied mathematics. Chayes is also a vocal champion of increasing diversity in STEM fields who has been lauded for her advocacy by organizations like the Anita Borg Institute and Women Entrepreneurs in Science and Technology. You can learn more about Chayes and her work in this Q&A on the Berkeley News site

In addition to announcing Chayes’s hiring, we would like to thank the members of the Associate Provost and Dean search committee for their excellent work. We also extend our deepest gratitude to Professor David Culler for taking up the position of interim Dean for the Data Science Division for the past two years. David’s extensive work — designing an undergraduate curriculum, building a faculty recruitment plan, recommending an organizational structure to house data science programs, and more — has been essential for helping lay the foundations of this new academic area at Berkeley.

We hope you will join us in thanking these members of our campus for their service, and in welcoming Jennifer Tour Chayes to Berkeley.


Carol T. Christ

A. Paul Alivisatos
Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost