Margo I. Seltzer

Margo I. Seltzer

  • Herchel Smith Professor of Computer Science
  • Director, Center for Research on Computation and Society


Margo I. Seltzer is the Herchel Smith Professor of Computer Science in the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

She received an A.B. degree in Applied Mathematics from Harvard/Radcliffe College in 1983 and a Ph. D. in Computer Science from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1992.

She is the author of several widely-used software packages including database and transaction libraries and the 4.4BSD log-structured file system. Dr. Seltzer was a founder and CTO of Sleepycat Software, the makers of Berkeley DB and is now an Architect for Oracle Corporation.

Before pursuing an academic career, professor Seltzer spent several years working at startup companies designing and implementing file systems and transaction processing software and designing microprocessors. She is a Sloan Foundation Fellow in Computer Science, a Bunting Fellow, and was the recipient of the 1996 Radcliffe Junior Faculty Fellowship, and the University of California Microelectronics Scholarship. She is recognized as an outstanding teacher and won the Phi Beta Kappa teaching award in 1996 and the Abrahmson Teaching Award in 1999.

Professor Seltzer's research focuses on how to make computer systems better for users. Better can mean faster, more reliable, or easier to use. It can also mean that the pieces of a system, its storage, operating system and applications, work together more gracefully. Her research activities range from designing and building new storage systems to building new operating sytems (e.g., VINO) to developing systems for collecting and tracking provenance of digital data. Professor Seltzer and her colleagues in systems form the Systems Research Group at Harvard. For more detailed information on current projects and activities, consult the SYRAH website. 

Contact Information

Office:Maxwell Dworkin 241
Office Phone:(617) 496-5663
Office Fax(617) 495-2809
Lab Location:209 Maxwell Dworkin
Lab Phone:(617) 495-8417
Assistant:Susan Virginia Welby
Assistant Office:Maxwell Dworkin 247
Assistant Phone:(617) 496-7592
Research Mgr: Tara Araque

Primary Teaching Area

Positions & Employment

Harvard School/Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences

  • 2004-Present: Herchel Smith Professor of Computer Science, Harvard University
  • 2005-2010: Harvard College Professor
  • 2002-2006: Associate Dean for Computer Science and Engineering
  • 2000-2004: Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Science
  • 1997-200: Associate Professor of Computer Science
  • 1992-1997: Assistant Professor of Computer Science
Oracle Corporation
  • 2006-Present: Architect
Sleepycat Software
  • 1996-2006: Chief Technical Officer
University of California, Berkeley
  • 1988-1992: Research Assistant
  • 1998: Teaching Assistant
Quantum Consulting
  • 1988-1992: Manager of Software Development
Silicon Compiler Systems
  • 1998: Senior Programmer
Kendall Square Research Corporation
  • 1986-1987: Senior Engineer
Stratus Computer Corp
  • 1985-1986: Senior Programmer
Sequoia Systems
  • 1983-1985: Senior Engineer
Harvard College
  • 1980-1983: Core Computer Requirement Instructor
  • 1980-1983: Teaching Fellow

Other Experience & Professional Membership

  • USENIX Board President, 2013
  • Program Co-Chair for the 2010 Workshop on Theory and Practice of Provenance
  • Program Chair for the 2009 High Performance Transaction Processing Workshop
  • Program Chair for the 2009 File and Storage Technologies Symposium
  • CMU Visiting Committee, 2006
  • Program Chair for the 2005 Workshop on Hot Topics in Operating Systems
  • Program Co-Chair for the 2004 ACM Conference on Electronic Commerce
  • National Academy Panel on Digital Archiving, 2002-2004
  • Steering Committee for the USENIX Symposium on File and Storage Technologies, 2002-present
  • Steering Committee for the USENIX Symposium on Network Design and Implementation, 2006-2009
  • Program Co-Chair for the 1998 Symposium on Operating System Design and Implementation
  • Member of the HTTP-NG Working Group on Web Characterization, 1998
  • Steering Committee for the USENIX Workshop on NT
  • Awards Chair for the 1997 International Conference on Data Engineering
  •  Vice-President of the USENIX Association, 2008-2010, Director at Large, 2006-2008, 1996 - 1998; Chair of the
    scholastic committee, responsible for variety of student programs including the student research projects program
  •  Program Co-Chair for 1994 Summer USENIX Conference
  • Program committee member for the 1992 Summer USENIX, 1993 Workshop on Workstation Operating Systems,
    1994 Winter USENIX, 1994 ASPLOS conference, 1994 SIGMOD conference, 1995 Symposium on Operating
    System Principles, 1996 International Workshop on Object Orientation in Operating Systems, 1997 Workshop in
    Internet Systems and Technologies, 2001 USENIX Technical Conference, 2001 Symposium on Operating System
    Principles, 2003 USENIX File And Storage Technologies Symposium, 2003 Workshop on Hot Topics in Operating
    Systems, 2004 ACM Conference on Electronic Commerce, 2004 Symposium on Operating System Design and
    Implementation, 2004 ACM Conference on High Performance Distributed Computing, 2008 USENIX File and Storage
    Technologies Symposium
  • Referee for IEEE Computer, IEEE Software Practice and Experience, IEEE Transactions on Computer Systems,
    IEEE Parallel and Distributed Technology: Systems and Applications, IEEE Transactions on Parallel and Distributed
    Systems, IEEE Transactions on Knowledge and Data Engineering, VLDB Journal, Digital Systems Journal, Communications of the ACM, and Algorithmica
  • Reviewer for 1992, 1996 ASPLOS Conference, 1993 SOSP Conference, 1994 ISCA. 1994 Workshop on Operating
    System Design and Implementation, 1995 USENIX Technical Conference, 1996 Symposium on Operating
    System Design and Implementation, 1997 International Symposium on Computer Architecture, 1997 Symposium on
    Internet Systems and Technologies, 1999 International Conference on Distributed Computing Systems, 1999 Symposium on Operating System Principles, 2001 Hot Topics in Operating Systems Workshop
  • Book reviewer for Addison-Wesley, Prentice Hall, Kluwer Associates and John Wiley & Sons, Inc
  • Chairman of the Sleepycat Software Board of Directors, 1996-present
  • Member of the Traxit Board of Directors, 2000-2001
  • Member of the Marble Technical Advisory Board and Board of Directors, 1996-1997
  • Member IEEE, ACM, USENIX Association
  • Contributor to 4.4BSD Project
  • Nominating Committee for the USENIX Board of Directors, 1994, 1999


  • Best Paper, 2002 USENIX Technical Conference
  • Nominated to the National Academy of Engineering’s Celebration of Women in Engineering, 1999
  • Best Paper, 2002 Usenix Technical conference
  • IBM Faculty Award, 2002, 2004, 2005
  • Roslyn Abramson Teaching Award, 1999
  • Best Student Paper, 1999 USENIX NT Symposium
  • Phi Beta Kappa Prize for Excellence in Teaching, 1996
  • Radcliffe Junior Faculty Fellowship, 1996 - 1997
  • Best Student Paper, 1996 USENIX Technical Conference
  • Award Paper, 1995 Symposium on Operating Systems
  • Best Student Paper, 1995 USENIX Technical Conference
  • Sloan Foundation Fellowship in Computer Science, 1994 - 1996
  • 1993 USENIX Lifetime Achievement Award (Contributor)
  • Best Presentation, 1993 Winter USENIX Conference
  • Best Student Paper, 1991 Winter USENIX Conference
  • Best Student Paper, 1990 Winter USENIX Conference
  • University of California Microelectronics Scholarship, 1988
  • Elizabeth Cary Agassiz Scholarship (for grade point average)
  • John Harvard Scholarship (for grade point average)