"Keep buggering on"
-Winston Churchill




Denver, CO

Bruce Porter


  • Bruce Porter's research addresses the grand challenge in Artificial Intelligence of building knowledge bases containing the accumulated understanding of entire fields of human inquiry, such as cell biology or global warming.
  • These knowledge bases are quite unlike digital libraries, in which knowledge is represented as text and computers can do little more than recite information to people. In contrast, they use machine-sensible representations appropriate for automated reasoning and explanation generation, and hold the promise of super-intelligence.
  • Since becoming UT's Computer Sciences Department Chairman in 2009, Porter has focused initiatives on student entrepreneurship, curriculum design in computer game development, and research in cloud computing.
  • The chair of an academic department is a spiritual leader. They set direction. They set priorities. It's not quite like a CEO of a company because I can't give orders to faculty. That just doesn't work.
  • The academic study of computer science is no longer about the box of how to make a computer and how to make a computer better. Now the exciting stuff is on what to do with this box now that we have it. It's at all of these areas that computer science touches, and it touches virtually everything.
  • UT has spun off a lot of companies, and the Department of Computer Science has played a role in some of these. The one that particularly impresses me is National Instruments. Now, often we don't think of National Instruments as a startup, because it's no longer a startup. But it started in the tradition of all great startups. It started with three people working at the University of Texas at the Applied Research Lab who were frustrated by the technology of the day.
  • They couldn't get their job done at ARL with the technology available to them for data collection and analysis. So rather than just complain about it, they saw an opportunity, and they developed technology to analyze and to collect the analyzed data, and now that's National Instruments.
  • One of the things that most impresses me about National Instruments is that, for many years now, it has been one of a handful of "It" companies in Austin, where our graduates really want to go. It's considered an elite company, and they've established that kind of reputation by building a culture that's very friendly to creative, smart people.
  • So some of the things that are special about UT that I'm particularly pleased with are the Freshman Research Initiative that enables students to get involved in research projects as freshmen. In our department, they work on an autonomous vehicle, a fold-up SUV, outfitted with robotic control.
  • These freshmen are writing in the control software to control this car. The students put in an entry into the DARPA Urban Challenge, and this is just a fantastic experience for freshmen, so different from my freshman years, 100 years ago.
  • As Chair of Computer Science, I am especially interested in entrepreneurship. I want to expose our students to entrepreneurs in town, because they're fascinating people. They have passion. They're driven. They're exciting, and they need to be in front of our students. Sometimes people think that the purpose of having an entrepreneurship program at a University is to spin off companies, and I hope that that happens.
  • But that's not my goal. I'm an educator. My goal is to educate students in, in this case, the skill of being an entrepreneur. And whether they then graduate and go on to a Fortune 100 company, they go work at IBM, fine. Wherever they go, they need this kind of experience. They need to know how to go into an organization and as a sole contributor, invent, create, think outside the box, and bring other people along.
  • Another thing that I'm particularly pleased with is the One Semester Startup experience that gives these students, as juniors or seniors, typically, a chance to work with mentors in town, and to really learn the fine art of entrepreneurship.
  • I think the "special sauce" that we have here in Austin is this blend of a tech culture and a creative culture. People here tend to think outside the box just by nature.
  • They're unusual thinkers, and they bring to technology that kind of creativity. They also bring an enjoyment, a thrill for life, and that's important in Austin. I think our tech culture nurtures that, and in return that climate, that high quality of life nurtures the tech community.