David Parkes, Ph.D.

John A. Paulson Dean of the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and George F. Colony Professor of Computer Science

Harvard University

David C. Parkes assumed the deanship of the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) on October 15, 2023. He is also the George F. Colony Professor of Computer Science.  

Parkes is the fourth dean to lead SEAS since it was elevated from a division to a school in 2007, the first computer scientist, and the first dean to rise from a faculty position in the school.  

A member of the Harvard faculty since 2001, Parkes founded the EconCS research group at SEAS, which conducts theoretical and experimental research at the intersection of economics and computer science, exploring artificial intelligence and algorithms for social and economic impact. Known for his work on incentive engineering for computational systems, early research contributed to the design of combinatorial auctions, procedures for selling complex packages of goods. He has worked on decentralized mechanism design as well as mechanism design in dynamic environments, where resources, participants, and information local to participants vary over time to embrace the real-world uncertainty. 

He has been elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Association for Computing Machinery, and the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence.  

A highly regarded teacher, adviser, and mentor, Parkes was named Harvard College Professor, a 5-year appointment that recognizes exemplary teaching, twice voted one of Harvard College’s Favorite Professors, has received the Roslyn Abramson Award for Teaching, and the Capers and Marion McDonald Award for Excellence in Mentoring and Advising “for his selfless contributions to creating a welcoming, collaborative, and productive community of scholars in computer science.”  

During his tenure at Harvard, Parkes has held leadership positions and helped stand up several initiatives. These include the master’s degree program in Data Science and the Summer Program for Undergraduates in Data Science. He was also the founding faculty co-director of the Harvard Data Science Initiative, a university-wide convening of computer scientists, statisticians, and domain experts from law, business, medicine, public health, and other academic disciplines, and of the Harvard Business Analytics program, a program to train leaders in data analytics to drive policy development and strategy. Through these leadership roles, Parkes has helped to shape the emerging discipline of data science, advancing data-driven policy development and improved understanding of the societal implications of big data.   

Following his M. Eng. in Engineering and Computing Science from the University of Oxford, Parkes received a Thouron Award to study at the University of Pennsylvania, earning a Ph.D. in Computer and Information Science.  

A dual U.S. and UK citizen, Parkes has served as an advisor to several successful startups and is a co-founder and current chief scientist at Boston-based Nift Networks, Inc. He is the inventor or co-inventor on 17 patents.