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Erik Demaine

Professor of Computer Science and Engineering MIT-CSAIL

Professor of Computer Science and Engineering MIT-CSAIL

Erik D. Demaine
Professor of Computer Science and Engineering MIT-CSAIL

Erik Demaine became a professor at MIT at age 20. His research interests range across the field of algorithms, from data structures for improving web searches, to the geometry of understanding how proteins fold and the computational difficulty of playing games.  He is also an authority on geometric folding algorithms in the field of computational origami.

Together with his father and lifetime collaborator Martin Demaine, an artist in residence at MIT, Demaine explores and celebrates the connections between mathematics and art.  Museum exhibits and film documentaries showcase his collaborative origami and glassblowing creations, which are intricately related to his mathematical studies and research

He was home schooled for 3 years during a childhood road trip with his father.  Erik then began college at age 12 and received his bachelor’s degree from Dalhousie University at age 14. He received his masters and doctorate from the University of Waterloo at age 15 and 20, respectively.  In 2003, Demaine received a MacArthur Fellowship as a computational geometer tackling and solving difficult problems related to folding and bending.

Highlights of this interview include:

  • Defines computational origami as the fusion between computer science and paper folding.
  • The field is evolving into origami-based engineering including proteins and nanostructures.
  • Collaborating with his father on the creation of computational origami art pieces and glassblowing.
  • Chronicle of his travels as a child with his father and the experience of being home schooled during that time.
  • Talks about the experience of beginning his university studies at age 12 and studying computer science in graduate school as a teenager including the experience of being younger than his fellow students.
  • Incorporating his study of improv comedy into his teaching style.
  • His collaborative style of problem solving.  Likes brainstorming and collaborating on research.
  • allows artists to perfect glass designs before executing the design in glass.
  • Sharing his lectures by recording them for OpenCourseWare.
  • Interest in proving that video games are hard.
  • Erik does an origami demonstration by folding a hyperbolic paraboloid at the end of his interview.



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