Professor of Computer Science John Savage used to spend his days teaching classes and doing research. But for the next year, he'll turn his attention from advising Brown students to advising federal officials on cyber security.
As one of next year's Jefferson Science Fellow for the U.S. Department of State, Savage will join an elite group of scientists advising the government on policy implementation.
The 10 fellows will provide expertise on engineering and other sciences — computer science, specifically — to guide U.S. foreign and domestic policy.
Savage is the first computer scientist and member of the Brown community to be accepted to the program. His work will focus on the threat hackers and other internet menaces pose to the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research.
Savage wrote in an e-mail to The Herald that he was "very excited" to be working at the State Department.
President Obama has already identified computer security as a priority for his administration. In a speech last May, he said cyber security was "a matter of public safety and national security."
Savage agreed with the president on the importance of the issue. "Our computers are not safe. They're hackable," he said in a Sept. 21 statement from the University, explaining why he chose to accept the position.
Becoming part of the Jefferson Science Fellows program — now in its sixth year — involves a rigorous application and screening process, Savage wrote in his e-mail to The Herald.
"I submitted an application that contained samples of my writing, was selected for interviews based on my application and letters of recommendation and then was interviewed by two panels of distinguished scientists, engineers and senior staff members of the State Department, including the Science and Technology Advisor to the Secretary of State, the person who made the final selections," he wrote.
Now that he is officially part of the program, Savage will soon begin to reap the benefits of his new position. He and the other Jefferson Fellows will soon have a formal presentation by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — after they finish receiving their security clearances, he wrote.
Savage moved to Washington, D.C., with his wife in August and expects to return to Brown next year.
Savage has long been at the cutting edge of his field. He was one of the founders of Brown's Department of Computer Science in 1979, and he served as department chair from 1985 to 1991.
"The Computer Science Department is delighted that John Savage has been selected for this prestigious appointment," Roberto Tamassia, professor of computer science and current chair of the department, wrote in an e-mail to The Herald. "His expertise, leadership and vision will be a great asset for the State Department. Our government is fortunate to have such a prominent scientist as adviser to policy makers," he added.