Patrick Lam

Associate Professor, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Director, Software Engineering Programme
University of Waterloo
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Since January 2008, I have been an Assistant Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Waterloo. The goal of my research is to help developers state and verify key design properties of their software; I apply static analysis techniques to software engineering problems. In 2007, I was a postdoc at McGill University's School of Computer Science, working with Laurie Hendren, Eric Bodden, and the Sable research group. For many years before that, I was a PhD student at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, working with Martin Rinard, Viktor Kuncak, and others.

You may be looking for my curriculum vitae (last updated May 2008).

OK, how was MIT?

This seems to be a frequently asked question: many people are curious to know what it's like to be at MIT.

I enjoyed being at MIT; as an institution, it is extremely good (although not quite peerless) at collecting smart people. No, I didn't find it to be insanely competitive. On the other hand, I do not have an insecurity complex. Interpret my answer accordingly.

Six and a half years of graduate school (2000-2006), though, is a long time (but standard in my group). I am definitely glad to be done, and the thesis flashbacks are tapering off. I am especially thrilled to be back in Canada, a country from which I cannot be deported.

Related question: How was the Stata Center?

I liked the space a lot. We had an office (32-G730) in the Stata Center (occupants: Viktor Kuncak, Karen Zee, Brian Demsky, Alex Salcianu, Darko Marinov, and myself), so we didn't have to deal with the open-plan office issues. I especially liked two things about it: 1) natural sunlight; and 2) lack of white noise. These were my two biggest complaints about our previous building, 200 Technology Square. A stated goal of the Stata Center was to encourage collaboration, and its design does seem to succeed at that goal: the numerous lounges are great places to sit and think (even if the furniture started out as being rock-hard).

However, the building has to not only work as a social space, but also as a building. In particular, buildings are required to keep the water out, to have level floors, and to have working bathrooms. While I understand that new buildings must generally be debugged to keep the water out, it seemed that the Stata Center failed at keeping water out for longer than necessary, and when I visited in 2007, I still found broken bathrooms and non-level floors. A building may be innovative, but it must work.

Comparison to the Davis Center at Waterloo (my current building)

Unfortunately, the hallway generates a lot of white noise, which enters my office if I keep my door open (and I like to keep my door open!). Not all hallways have white noise, just ours. I don't know why. The windows seem to block more light than is necessary, although at least they let in some light. It seems that the open spaces in DC do work to some extent: the atrium gets semi-regular events (e.g. our Fourth Year Design Symposium, among others), and people do hang out in the public spaces. Unfortunately, the open spaces don't work nearly as well as those in Tech Square or in the Stata Center. I think that the open spaces are too far, too open (vs. Tech Square and Stata, whose spaces are semi-open), and they lack writing surfaces.


Since I do not watch TV, I have tons of free time for hobbies. You will find pictures of me participating in my hobbies in my gallery.

Not quite a hobby: I get around town by bicycle. I don't like rain.

Brief life history

Born in Montreal and lived there for 22 years. Got a BSc in math and computer science and an MSc in computer science at McGill. Went to MIT for 6.5 years and got a PhD. Achiever-type person. Hope to convince Marie-Pascale to like Waterloo, which admittedly is nowhere near as nice as Montreal.

Provinces visited: All but Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

Countries nontrivially visited as of 05/2008: United States, Mexico; Sweden, Germany, France, UK, the Netherlands, Italy, Belgium, Switzerland, Greece; Vietnam (I speak the language), Japan, Cambodia, Singapore.

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