Robert M. (Mike) Kirby, professor of computer science, has been named interim director of the University of Utah’s Scientific Computing and Imaging (SCI) Institute. Kirby fills the role previously held by Chris Johnson who recently stepped down after 25 years as director of the institute.

“I want to express my deep and sincere thanks to Chris and reaffirm the administration’s commitment to scientific computing on campus. Chris’ leadership, passion and vision for SCI over the last quarter century have made the institute an international leader and one of the university’s great treasures. I look forward to working closely with Mike and the institute’s leadership team during this transition,” said Dan Reed, senior vice president for academic affairs.

Kirby, longtime SCI Institute faculty member, will serve in the interim role while a national search for a permanent director is conducted. Johnson will remain at the U as a distinguished professor of computer science and SCI Institute faculty member.

The SCI Institute is considered a leading academic center in the fields of visualization, scientific computing, and image analysis. The institute’s overarching research objective is to conduct application-driven research in the creation of new scientific computing techniques, tools, and systems. The institute has trained more than 400 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows (in addition to providing internships to nearly 100 undergraduates). SCI Institute graduates have moved into faculty positions with universities both here in the US and internationally and also become innovators with companies such as NVidia, Google, Intel, Exxon Mobil, and Medtronics.

Johnson attributes SCI’s success to a collaborative culture at the institute. “Since its inception as a research group in 1994, our vision for SCI has been underpinned by a commitment to creating a supportive culture of multidisciplinary, collaborative research,” said Johnson. “Our success has come from building a team of the very best faculty who are both top in their research areas and effective collaborators who are supported by dedicated staff within a positive collegial environment.  I am immensely proud of the success of the SCI Institute and look forward to supporting its continued success.”

In addition to his role as a faculty member in computer science, Kirby is the Associate Director of the School of Computing and holds adjunct faculty appointments in the U’s departments of mathematics and biomedical engineering. His research focus is on large-scale scientific computing and visualization, with an emphasis on the scientific cycle of mathematical modeling, computation, visualization, evaluation and understanding. He earned his master’s and doctorate degree from Brown University and his bachelor’s degree from Florida State University.