Sara Su

Sara Su
Photo: Jason Dorfman, CSAIL photographer

Where did you grow up:

I grew up in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, where my family still lives in our hometown of Bellevue, Washington.

What was your academic path before coming to grad school at MIT?

I studied Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Washington and graduated with a Bachelor's degree in 2002.

What department are you currently working in, and when did you start there?

After graduating from UW, I joined the MIT Computer Graphics Group, where I continue to study and do research with my advisor, Professor Fredo Durand. Our group belongs to CSAIL's AI directorate.

What are you working on and why are you passionate about it?

Generally, I am interested in how computers can facilitate visual communication. Specifically, I work to design methods for both extending the toolbox of the artist and making digital document editing easier for the average user. The personal computer has come a long way in a short time, but many applications, such as photo and illustration editing, remain the domain of experts. My research in computer graphics and interactive techniques has the goal of making these computing spaces accessible to a wider audience. I have had the opportunity to collaborate with researchers at Microsoft and Adobe Systems, and interacting with real users has motivated and helped ground our work.

What is your favorite thing about working at CSAIL?

CSAIL's reputation means we are spoiled by a constant stream of excellent seminars and talks. Outside of one's own specialization, there are so many opportunities to learn about work being done elsewhere in the lab and in the community at large.

What effect do you think your area of work will have on the world in the next decade?

I believe computer graphics has the potential to improve the computing experience for many people and to increase technology fluency across the spectrum. We have come a long way from text-only terminals. In addition to applications in entertainment, graphics can help people communicate more clearly, intuitively, and expressively.

What are your future plans?

This is my final year in the PhD program, and I am pursuing a career that will allow me to continue conducting cutting edge research with equally motivated collaborators.

What advice would you give a prospective CSAIL graduate student?

MIT can be an intimidating place, but I have found CSAIL to be a friendly community of people who have diverse interests apart from their research. I would encourage incoming grad students to seek out the outstanding resources available to us in the lab, the biggest being fellow students and researchers.