Q & A with New CoE Faculty: Jonathan Balkind

Monday, October 19, 2020
UCSB’s College of Engineering will welcome seven new faculty throughout the fall quarter, including Jonathan Balkind, who is joining the Computer Science Department as an assistant professor. He was previously a PhD candidate at Princeton University. Balkind also completed a master in science degree in computing science from the University of Glasgow in Scotland. 
Recently, we asked him some questions to learn more about one of our newest faculty. Here’s what he had to say. 
Q: What is the focus of your research? 
A: My research has a couple of main thrusts. The first is on the interaction between software and hardware, and where the boundary should lie between the two. I am interested in moving more software functionality into hardware while still maintaining the ease of programming at a higher level. The other thrust is on making more productive environments for building new computer processors by leveraging open source tools and techniques. Open source software has been a huge success for research and industry but open source hardware still has a long way to go to reach wide adoption.
Q: How did you become interested in these specific fields of research?
A: I was actually an Education Abroad Program (EAP) exchange student here at UCSB for a year back in 2009-2010! I took a class in Computer Architecture here which had a great instructor (Diana Franklin, now at the University of Chicago) and a really fun project where we designed our own computer processor, which both got me hooked.
Q: What are the real-world implications of your research? 
A: Faster and more energy efficient processors are what keep the digital revolution ticking. Open source hardware design will enable more people to build their own custom-designed chips, with the potential to truly disrupt the industry for the first time in a long time.
Q: How excited are you to be joining the Computer Science Department at UCSB?
A: I am absolutely delighted to be joining the department! I've found that my colleagues are deeply caring and friendly people who are a pleasure to work with. Now I'm looking forward to meeting more of the students that I've been hearing the very same things about.
Q: What are some of the top reasons why you want to work at UCSB?
A: Having experienced the department as an exchange student, I knew about the open, collaborative, and kind culture. There are many faculty in CS and ECE that I'm very much looking forward to collaborating with. The weather was also a draw, having weathered too many northeastern winters for my liking.
Q: How are you adjusting to your new role during these unprecedented times?
A: The move was definitely more of a challenge than it would be in a normal year. I'm now ready to kick off my research program!
Q: Have you discovered a new favorite beach or restaurant since you’ve moved to the South Coast? 
A: I just had Freebirds again for the first time after ten years and I’m looking forward to many more.
Q: Tell us something interesting about yourself unrelated to work or research?
A: I've been teaching myself Korean since 2010 and even interned in Suwon, South Korea back in 2012. I'd highly recommend it for anyone thinking of learning Korean!

Jonathan Balkind joins the Computer Science Department as an assistant professor.