Azer Bestavros is the Inaugural Associate Provost for the Faculty of Computing & Data Sciences at BU, a degree-granting academic unit with a mission to catalyze and integrate research and education programs in computing and data sciences across the landscape of disciplines at BU. Prior to taking on this leadership role in 2019, he was the Founding Director of the Hariri Institute for Computing, set up in 2010 to nucleate BU’s presence in computing and data sciences. Under his leadership, the Institute has become a landmark at the crossroads of computational research at BU, engaging over 250 researchers from 38 departments, and securing over $100M in external research funding for incubated projects. From 2000 to 2007, Azer chaired the CS Department in the College of Arts and Sciences, having joined it in 1991 after obtaining his PhD from Harvard University.
Praised by students for his engaging teaching style and his use of memorable analogies, Azer is recognized for his signature CS-350 course, which he developed in the mid-1990s and taught for over 25 years, covering fundamental concepts that are immune to technological churn and yet underlie the design and implementation of all types of computing systems. Specializing in distributed systems research, Azer made seminal contributions to many areas of CS, most recently focusing on privacy-preserving big-data analytics for social and public good applications. As of 2019, funded by over $49M from government and industry sponsors, his research yielded 19 PhD theses, 8 patents, 2 startups, and hundreds of refereed papers with over 20,000 citations.
Azer has a long track record of service to the computing community, most recently chairing the 2019 and co-chairing the 2014 Committee of Visitors charged by NSF to evaluate its CISE Directorate; serving on the inaugural advisory board of the congressional Cloud Computing Caucus set up in 2013 to raise public awareness on cloud technologies; and serving for seven years until 2012 as chair of the IEEE Computer Society TC on the Internet. Currently, he serves on the Advisory Committee of the CISE Directorate of the NSF and on the Editorial Board of the Communications of the ACM. He is frequently tapped for plenary presentations, federal and local government agency briefings, and media coverage related to contemporary issues at the nexus of computing, society, and public policy.
In recognition of distinguished teaching, research, and service, Azer received a number of awards, most notably the ACM Sigmetrics Inaugural Test of Time Award for 1996 work "whose impact is still felt 15 years after its initial publication" and the 2010 United Methodist Scholar Teacher Award for "outstanding dedication and contributions to the learning arts and to the institution." In 2017, he was named a William Fairfield Warren Distinguished Professor, the highest distinction bestowed upon senior faculty members at BU.