Jonathan Eastep

Jonathan Eastep
Photo: Jason Dorfman, CSAIL photographer

Where did you grow up:

All over. I've lived in various places in Texas, Louisiana, and California. Before high school, we moved once every 2-3 years for my father's job, but I did all of high school in Corpus Christi, TX. I think of Corpus Christi as my home, and my family still lives there, though now they lease a condo near Lake Travis in Austin, TX and live there part time. Between that and the fact that I did my undergrad in Austin, I consider Austin home as well.

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

My senior year of high school I wanted to study some sort of Physics in college. I opted for Engineering because it was very applied. My first year at UT Austin, I chose Aerospace Engineering. As an Aerospace Engineer, I took some Physics courses in the Electrical Engineering department and decided I liked that branch of Physics better, so I switched to Electrical Engineering. In the EE program at UT, I got a lot of exposure to circuits, microprocessor interfacing, and programming embedded systems. That's what got me interested in Computer Architecture. MIT was the best option for grad school in Computer Architecture. As a Computer Architecture and Systems student, I'm still interested in Physics. In fact, I took a really fascinating class at the interface of Computer Science and Physics on Quantum Computing and Quantum Information Theory here at MIT.

What did you want to be when you were younger? Is that still an interest of yours?

I remember being denied entrance to the gifted program at my elementary school because in my interviews I insisted, when asked this question, that I wanted to be a philosopher when I grew up. [laughs] In a way, it's still true. As I've matured, I've become increasingly interested in technology and its impact on humanity -- particularly the way that technology is shaping the future of our species and how these trends should guide our evolving worldview.

What is something most people would be surprised to learn about you?

[laughs] You'll have to get to know me for me to divulge my secrets.

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

I work in the Computer Architecture Group under Professor Agarwal. I started in 2004 as part of the Raw Project, which built one of the first general purpose multicore computer systems. Now I'm part of Professor Agarwal's ATAC, Angstrom, and Carbon Projects which all deal with building future multicore computer systems with thousands of cores.

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

As a member of the Angstrom Project and the Carbon Project, I work on future multicore computers with thousands of cores. We're designing new multicore architectures, compilers, runtime systems, operating systems, languages, and tools infrastructure to address the big challenges these systems introduce: programming complexity, hardware reliability, power consumption, and others. We're looking ahead of the industry technology curve by about 10 years and hope to shape future technology trends.

What is your favorite thing about working at CSAIL?

Definitely the endless supply of free food leftovers. [laughs] The career networking potential here is also very good.

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

Some derivative of the research we're doing in the Angstrom Project and the Carbon Project is going to make the thousand-core multicore a reality. With that much compute in the PC at your desk or the mobile device in your pocket, you enable a whole new class of applications. How cool would it be if you had the computational capacity to index all of your photos on your iPhone 12.0 according to who or what is in them, recognizing people, places, and objects automagically? There are many interesting things you can do with that much compute in your pocket.

What are your future plans?

When I finish my PhD, I'm thinking about working for a few years, then going to business school. Eventually, I hope to be a CEO or CTO for a startup company.

What advice would you give a prospective CSAIL graduate student?

I'd point out a couple of positive things I have observed so far in my four years here. First, the quality of CSAIL's graduate students, faculty, and researchers definitely DOES live up to the hype. Second, I have found the people in CSAIL to be friendly and down-to-earth, and much less cutthroat than I feared they would be.

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

CSAIL has several intramural athletic teams. I play for the softball and basketball teams. We may not be the Boston Red Sox or the Celtics, but we have a lot of fun! The CSAIL Student Committee also supports a lot of fun social events such as trips to the theater on opening day, ice cream socials, the Student Olympics, and the Student Workshop -- some things you might want to be involved in.