Jennifer Tour Chayes is managing director of the new Microsoft Research New England lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts which opened in July 2008. Before this, she was research area manager for Mathematics, Theoretical Computer Science and Cryptography at Microsoft Research Redmond. Chayes joined Microsoft Research in 1997, when she co-founded the Theory Group. Her research areas include phase transitions in discrete mathematics and computer science, structural and dynamical properties of self-engineered networks, and algorithmic game theory. She is the co-author of almost 100 scientific papers and the co-inventor of more than 20 patents.
Chayes has many ties to the academic community. She is Affiliate Professor of Mathematics and Physics at the University of Washington, and was for many years Professor of Mathematics at UCLA. She serves on numerous institute boards, advisory committees and editorial boards, including the Turing Award Selection Committee of the Association for Computing Machinery, the Board of Trustees of the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute, the Advisory Boards of the Center for Discrete Mathematics and Computer Science and the Miller Institute for Basic Research in Science, the U.S. National Committee for Mathematics and the Committee on Assuring the Integrity of Research Data of the National Academies, the Advisory Committee on Women in Computing of the Association for Computing Machinery, the Leadership Advisory Council of the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology, and the Selection Committee for the Anita Borg Award for Technical Leadership. Chayes is a past Chair of the Mathematics Section of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and a past Vice-President of the American Mathematical Society.
Chayes received her B.A. in biology and physics at Wesleyan University, where she graduated first in her class, and her Ph.D. in mathematical physics at Princeton. She did her postdoctoral work in the mathematics and physics departments at Harvard and Cornell. She is the recipient of a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship, a Sloan Fellowship, and the UCLA Distinguished Teaching Award. She has twice been a member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. Chayes is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and a National Associate of the National Academies.
Chayes is best known for her work on phase transitions, in particular for laying the foundation for the study of phase transitions in problems in discrete mathematics and theoretical computer science; this study is now giving rise to some of the fastest known algorithms for fundamental problems in combinatorial optimization. She is also one of the world’s experts in the modeling and analysis of random, dynamically growing graphs – which are used to model the Internet, the World Wide Web and a host of other technological and social networks. Among Chayes’ contributions to Microsoft technologies are the development of methods to analyze the structure and behavior of various networks, the design of auction algorithms, and the design and analysis of various business models for the online world.
Chayes lives with her husband, Christian Borgs, who also happens to be her principal scientific collaborator. In her spare time, she enjoys overworking.