History and Leadership


The Ken Kennedy Institute was originally founded in 1987 by professor Ken Kennedy, founder of Rice University's nationally ranked computer science program and the Rice Computer and Information Technology Institute (CITI), and also known as one of the world's foremost experts in high-performance computing. After Ken Kennedy passed away, CITI was renamed in December 2007 in his honor, and continues to be known today as the Ken Kennedy Institute at Rice University.

The Ken Kennedy Institute is dedicated to fostering collaborative innovations to solve critical global challenges that advance computing and harness data. The Institute is currently the virtual home of over 215 faculty members and senior researchers from across Rice University. Institute members receive most of their funding from federal agencies such as the National Science Foundation, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Department of Energy’s Office of Science and the National Institutes of Health.

Annual Reports



Lydia E. Kavraki
2019 to Present, Director of the Ken Kennedy Institute
"my last name"@rice.edu

Lydia E. Kavraki is the Director of the Ken Kennedy Institute. She is the Noah Harding Professor of Computer Science, professor of Bioengineering, professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and professor of Mechanical Engineering at Rice University.

Kavraki received her B.A. in Computer Science from the University of Crete in Greece and her Ph.D. in Computer Science from Stanford University. Her research interests span robotics, AI, and biomedicine. In robotics and AI, she develops algorithms for motion planning, machine learning and data science methods for reasoning under uncertainty, and multi-modal frameworks to instruct robots and collaborate with them. In computational biomedicine, she develops robotics-inspired methods for understanding bimolecular interactions and for medicinal drug discovery. Kavraki is a member of the National Academy of Medicine and the Academy of Athens. She is a recipient of the Presidential Mentorship Award and the Outstanding Faculty Research Award at Rice University, the ACM Grace Murray Hopper Award, the ACM Athena Lecturer Award, the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society Pioneer Award, and the ACM-AAAI Allen Newell Award.


Moshe Vardi
2001 to 2019, Director of the Ken Kennedy Institute for Information Technology
Karen Ostrum George Distinguished Service Professor in Computational Engineering, Professor of Computer Science

Moshe Vardi is University Professor, Karen Ostrum George Distinguished Service Professor in Computational Engineering at Rice University, where he is leading an Initiative on Technology, Culture, and Society. His interests focus on automated reasoning, a branch of Artificial Intelligence with broad applications to computer science, including machine learning, database theory, computational-complexity theory, knowledge in multi-agent systems, computer-aided verification, and teaching logic across the curriculum. Dr. Vardi was previously the Director of the Ken Kennedy Institute from 2001 to 2019.


Keith Cooper
July 2015-September 2019, Co-Director of the Ken Kennedy Institute for Information Technology
L. John and Ann H. Doerr Chair in Computational Engineering; Professor of Computer Science and Electrical and Computer Engineering; Chair of the Department of Computational and Applied Mathematics

Dr. Cooper's primary research area has been program analysis and optimization. He was one of the founding members of the compiler group at Rice and continues as an active researcher and mentor. He has more than 75 technical publications and has produced 18 Ph.D.s. Dr. Cooper is a Fellow of the ACM and he previously served as Co-Director of the Ken Kennedy Institute.


Willy Zwaenepoel
1998 to 2001, Director of the Computer and Information Technology Institute (CITI)
Professor and Dean of Engineering at the University of Sydney, and global leader in experimental computer science. Former Karl F. Hasselmann Professor of Computer Science and Electrical and Computer Engineering at Rice University
+61 2 9351 2222

Professor Willy Zwaenepoel is a well-established global leader in experimental computer science research, with a particular interest in distributed systems and operating systems. Professor Zwaenepoel has been elected as a Fellow of both the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and the Association for Computing Machinery.

He was a key advisor to Nutanix from 2010 (currently valued at US$5.5 billion) and his research has led to two startups, iMimic and BugBuster, being acquired by Cisco. He has played a major role in attracting industry funding, including a Microsoft gift totalling 9 million Swiss francs (around AUD$12 million) to EPFL and ETH Zurich. He continues to advise several start-ups and is as a member of the board of ICTSwitzerland. Professor Zwaenepoel joined the faculty as Dean in July 2018.

C. Sidney Burrus

C. Sidney Burrus
1992 to 1998, Director of the Computer and Information Technology Institute (CITI)
Maxfield and Oshman Professor Emeritus, Electrical and Computer Engineering

Dr. Burrus has been conducting research in digital signal processing (DSP) for more than 30 years at Rice. His interests are in digital filter design and implementation, and in efficient signal processing algorithms. Significant work is being done in both time and frequency domain specifications for FIR and IIR filters. The design methods focus on efficient approximation algorithms, and the implementation uses block processing, distributed arithmetic, and transform techniques. Recent work has been on constrained least squared approximation, iterative reweighted least squares algorithms, and new exchange algorithms for Chebyshev approximations. The results of the DSP group's research on filter design are used in commercial filter design systems and are described in Burrus' book on digital filter design.

In addition to DSP research, Dr. Burrus has been interested in the use of technology to teach and facilitate learning. He and five colleagues at other universities have published a book of exercises using Matlab (from MathWorks) to teach DSP. He has been part of the Connexions Project since its founding in 1999 and is now its Senior Strategist. He has been an associate of both Will Rice College and Lovett College.

Ken Kennedy

Ken Kennedy
1986 to 1992, Director of the Computer and Information Technology Institute (CITI)

Dr. Kennedy was a professor and founder of Rice University's nationally ranked computer science program, the Computer and Information Technology Institute (CITI), now the Ken Kennedy Institute, and was one of the world's foremost experts in high-performance computing.

Kennedy's research interests included parallel computing in science and engineering, scientific programming environments, and optimization of compiled code. His work falls into four main project areas: the Telescoping Languages Project; the Grid Application Development Programming Tools effort; research on Compilers and Tools for Scalable Scientific Computing; and the Massively Scalar Compiler Project. The Center for High Performance Software Research (HiPerSoft) is a research development center that specializes in leading and managing cross-institutional, multidisciplinary research consortia, primarily in software for high performance computing. From 1989 to 2000, Kennedy directed (with management support from HiPerSoft) the Center for Research on Parallel Computation (CRPC), one of the first National Science Foundation Science and Technology Centers. He directed four ongoing multi-institutional consortia: the Los Alamos Computer Science Institute (LACSI); the NSF-sponsored Virtrual Grid Application Development System (VGrADS) project; the Gulf Coast Center for Computational Cancer Research (GC4R); and the Houston BioGrid consortium.

Executive Directors


Angela Wilkins
2020 to Present, Executive Director of the Ken Kennedy Institute

Angela Wilkins is the Executive Director of the Ken Kennedy Institute. Angela is responsible for the development and implementation of Ken Kennedy Institute’s programs in the computational sciences. After earning a Ph.D. in theoretical physics from Lehigh University, she shifted her focus to computational biology and spent nine years at Baylor College of Medicine as a researcher and instructor. She later served as director of clinical research at the nonprofit Center for Science & Law, and in 2017 founded Mercury Data Science, a boutique consultancy to help early stage companies solve data science problems. She was previously chief scientist of Mercury Fund, a Houston venture capital group, advising on artificial intelligence-related investments. Wilkins holds four patents, has been involved in several federally funded projects and has been published extensively.

Jan Odegard
2002 to 2020, Executive Director of the Ken Kennedy Institute

Jan Odegard served 18 years as Executive Director of Rice’s Ken Kennedy Institute and four years as associate Vice President for Research Computing. Odegard worked closely with Kavraki and the former director of the institute, Moshe Vardi, to grow membership from 100 to more than 175, secure both public and private funding to support high performance computing (HPC) and computational science and engineering, and lead the development of an innovative model to better provide and support HPC research services across campus. Odegard was also the driving force behind the Oil & Gas HPC Conference at Rice University — an annual meeting that began as a workshop with 150 participants in spring 2008 and quickly grew to one of the largest annual meetings at Rice, now averaging 500 attendees — as well as the annual Ken Kennedy Institute Data Science Conference at Rice University that launched in fall 2017.

In 2020, Odegard joined the leadership team at the Ion, the future hub of a 16-acre innovation and technology district, as Senior Director for Industry and Academic Partnerships. His duties include overseeing the facility’s laboratories and a 10-member network of academic partners that includes Rice, the University of Houston, UH Downtown, Texas Southern University, South Texas College of Law, the University of St. Thomas, Houston Baptist University, Houston Community College, San Jacinto College and Lone Star College. He is currently serving as the Interim Executive Director of the Ion.


Anthony (Tony) J. Elam
1996 to 2002, Executive Director of the Computer and Information Technology Institute (CITI)

Tony Elam joined Rice as the executive director of the Computer and Information Technology Institute (CITI) and was eventually appointed Associate Dean of Engineering for Research, a position that he held for seven years. He was instrumental in expanding the university’s relationship and involvement with Los Alamos National Lab and the Texas Medical Center. Mr. Elam had nineteen years experience in the computing industry with IBM, and his industrial projects included the NASA Earth Observing DOE Superconducting Super Collider, and the DOD Joint Training Analysis Simulation Center. He is also well-known for his collection of non-computer games, one of the largest collections in the U.S. Mr. Elam worked as the Executive Director for Strategic Initiatives at Baylor College of Medicine, and worked in the Office of the Sr. Executive VP and Executive Dean.