Michael D. Smith

Michael D. Smith

  • John H. Finley, Jr. Professor of Engineering and Applied Sciences; Harvard University Distinguished Service Professor


A member of the Faculty since 1992, Smith began his academic career pursuing innovative work on computing systems, particularly on issues involving a detailed knowledge of both the hardware and software in these sophisticated systems. His research interests included dynamic optimization, machine-specific and profile-driven compilation, high-performance computer architecture, and practical applications of security. This work helped Smith co-found the data security company Liquid Machines Inc. in 2001.

Liquid Machines' enterprise rights management products gave companies the ability to easily control and manage access to valuable documents and other digital assets. In June 2010, Liquid Machines was acquired by Check Point Software Technologies Ltd., an Israeli Internet and data security company best known for its ZoneAlarm firewall software.

Beginning in July 2007, Smith put his research interests aside to lead Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences. During his 11 years in the dean’s office, his leadership was characterized by a deep commitment to undergraduate teaching, to a tenure-track system, and to research, both fundamental and applied.

Smith received a B.S. in electrical engineering and computer science from Princeton University in 1983, an M.S. in electrical engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in 1985, and a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Stanford University in 1993. He began at Harvard in 1992 as an instructor and rose through the tenure-track ranks. In 1994 he received a prestigious National Science Foundation Young Investigator Award, and in 1999 the Alpha Iota Prize for Excellence in Teaching.

Contact Information

Nickname: Mike
Office:Pierce Hall 29 Oxford Street
Assistant:Jane Salant
Assistant Office:Cruft 210
Assistant Phone:(617) 496-8119
Research Mgr: Rady M. Rogers

Primary Teaching Area

Positions & Employment

Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

  • October 2008-Present: John H. Finley, Jr. Professor of Engineering and Applied Sciences

Harvard University

  • July 2007-August 2018: Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Harvard School/Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences

  • July 2005-July 2007: Associate Dean for Computer Science and Engineering
  • January 2000-2008: Professor
  • July 1997-December 1999: Associate Professor
  • February 1993-June 1997: Assistant Professor
  • December 1992-January 1993: Instructor
Stanford University
  • October 1986-November 1992: Research Assistant
  • October 1991-December 1991: Teaching Assistant and Lecturer
  • October 1989-December 1989: Teaching Assistant
Digital Equipment Corporation
  • July 1987-January 1, 1998: Research Intern
Honeywell Information Systems
  • March 1986-June 1986

Other Experience & Professional Membership

Member, Association for Computing Machinery

Member, The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.

Founder, Chief Scientist, and Chairman, Liquid Machines, Lexington, Massachusetts, January 2001-July 2007

Consultant, Kendall Square Research, Waltham, Massachusetts, April 1993-December 1993

United States Swimming Coach, Palo Alto Swim Club, Palo Alto, California, March 1989-September 1990

Product Engineer, Honeywell Information Systems, July 1983-September 1986


Phi Beta Kappa Prize for Excellence in Teaching, Harvard University, 1999

Joseph R. Levenson Memorial Teaching Award Nominee, Harvard University, 1999 and 2007

National Science Foundation Young Investigator, 1994

Primary inventor on U.S. and foreign patents

Honeywell Quarterly Engineering Achievement Award

Member of Tau Beta Pi Society

Fellow in the Center for Integrated System’s Fellow-Mentor-Advisor Program