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John Harvard's Journal

David J. Malan

July-August 2009

David Malan

David Malan

Photograph by Stu Rosner

Although he holds two Harvard degrees and teaches here, David J. Malan ’99, Ph.D. ’07, does not consider himself “that guy who never left.” For one thing, he did leave—the Connecticut native taught high-school algebra and geometry for one year after graduating, then spent a year working for a wireless software startup in Philadelphia before returning to Cambridge for grad school. Even now, Malan’s extracurriculars take him far afield: the lecturer in computer science spends half of each week in New York, providing technical expertise for a startup that advises companies on Web advertising strategy. The rest of the week, he teaches various courses, among them CS 50, the introductory computer-science course that he has reworked to make more accessible. Malan has long kept one foot planted firmly on campus and one foot off: during grad school he launched two startups, including Diskaster, a data-recovery firm that used skills honed during work for the Middlesex County district attorney, searching seized hard drives for evidence. He enjoys this interplay between his academic and non-academic lives; his master’s research, involving encryption of sensitive information transmitted by remote sensors in mass-casualty situations, was inspired by his training and service as an emergency medical technician, and he still volunteers each year at the Boston Marathon. Teaching is his first love—and since he took over CS 50 two years ago, enrollment has more than doubled, and female enrollment has risen to a record 36 percent. But he doubts that teaching will ever be the only ball he has in the air. His life’s current balance is, for him, “just about perfect.”