Ashok Chandra

Ashok ChandraDistinguished Scientist and General Manager
MSR Silicon Valley

Dr. Ashok Chandra ( graduated with a B.Tech in EE at IIT Kanpur in 1969, receiving the prestigious President’s Gold Medal, and subsequently the Distinguished Alumni award. He received his MS in EECS from Berkeley, and his PhD in Computer Science from Stanford.

He has served as a Distinguished Scientist and General Manager at Microsoft, as an SVP at Verity, and a Director of Computer Science at IBM Almaden Research. He and his teams have created many industry breakthroughs in IT, including several “billion dollar/yr” products, like IBM’s database product (DB2), IBM’s storage manager (TSM), and the little red Trackpoint device that most of us have used in laptops. But his favorite project was the Screen Reader. Initially created to enable a blind friend to use computers in the late 70’s; this became the IBM Screen Reader product, and spawned an industry that now improves the lives of tens of million blind people around the world.

In addition to management, Dr. Chandra has been active in doing his own research, and advancing the field of Computer Science. He is known for the invention of Alternation (in complexity theory), Computable Queries, and Conjunctive Queries (in database research), and self-testing chips that check themselves. His current research is on making computers “smart” so they can understand humans better. The technology is already appearing across Microsoft products, like Bing, Azure, Xbox, MSN, Office, etc.

Dr. Chandra has been active professionally, having founded major conferences, e.g. in logic (LICS), and has served as chairman of numerous world-class conferences, as in algorithms (STOC, FOCS), and databases (PODS). He is a fellow of the IEEE.

Ashok has looked for ways of giving-back to society. For example, he played a significant role in founding one of the first international research labs in India, viz. the IBM Research center, initially set up at IIT Delhi. At the other end of the spectrum, he has been active with Pratham, where he has funded the education of a thousand K-5 kids, mostly poor young Muslim girls. In between, he has set up foundations for ongoing funding for merit-cum-means scholarships at IIT Kanpur, and some through Foundation for Excellence (FFE). Until recently, he has been active in sports (tennis, table-tennis), running, hiking, skiing, swimming, and riding his sports motorbike.