Professor, Computer Science and Engineering
Faculty-Affiliate, Electrical and Computer Engineering
Computer Graphics, Computer Vision, Signal Processing, Rendering, Visual computing
Ramamoorthi's research group develops the theoretical foundations, mathematical representations and computational models for the visual appearance of objects, digitally recreating or rendering the complexity of natural appearance. The group's research program cuts across computer graphics, computer vision and signal processing with applications in sparse reconstruction and frequency analysis, interactive photorealistic rendering, acquisition and representation of data-driven appearance, image and video editing, light-field cameras, physics-based vision and lighting-insensitive recognition. This work has led to more than 100 publications, including more than 50 SIGGRAPH or TOG papers, and has been recognized in 2005 by a Sloan Fellowship and an NSF CAREER award, and in 2007 with an ONR Young Investigator Award and the ACM SIGGRAPH Significant New Researcher Award. Subsequently, Ramamoorthi received a Presidential Early Career Award in a White House ceremony in December 2008, and an Okawa Foundation Award in 2011, as well as five Google research awards from 2014-2017. Prof. Ramamoorthi was appointed as the inaugural holder of the Ronald L. Graham Chair of Computer Science in March 2016, and was selected both an IEEE and an ACM Fellow in 2017.
In addition to his individual research contributions, he is the founding director of the industry-funded UC San Diego Center for Visual Computing, which launched as one of the first 3 new Agile Centers at the Jacobs Research Expo in Apr 2015, and currently has 10 industry partners. Earlier, he played a key role in developing leading multi-faculty research groups at Columbia University (the Columbia Vision and Graphics Center) and at UC Berkeley (Visual Computing Lab).
Ramamoorthi's research has had significant impact in industry. His work on spherical harmonic lighting and irradiance environment maps is now widely included in games (such as the Halo series), and is increasingly adopted in movie production. Spherical harmonic lighting was a critical component of the rendering pipeline in Avatar in 2010 (computer graphics effects were done at Weta Digital, which received a technical academy award in 2014 for their implementation of spherical harmonic lighting), and is now an integral part of the industry-standard RenderMan software, since mid-2011. Ramamoorthi's research on importance sampling has inspired a sampling and image-based lighting pipeline that is becoming standard for production rendering (also included in RenderMan) and is used by Pixar for Monsters University (2013) and future releases; Ramamoorthi was a consultant for three years at Pixar.
Ramamoorthi is also a pioneering educator, recognized as one of the 11 finalists across all subject areas, worldwide for the inaugural edX Prize for exceptional contributions in online teaching and learning in 2016 and again in 2017 (as the only computer science professor selected and the only two-time finalist). He has taught the first ever open online computer graphics course (BerkeleyX CS 184.1x), as one of the first nine courses on the new EdX platform in Fall 2012. He developed CSE 167x, Computer Graphics, as the first UC San DiegoX course, initially taught in Aug 2015. More than 100,000 students have registered for multiple offerings of his courses, and the course has been licensed and translated into Mandarin, becoming the first Chinese computer graphics MOOC offered publicly in Fall 2014. The general public has viewed his online computer graphics lectures more than 500,000 times. He has advised more than 20 postdoctoral, Ph.D. and M.S. students, many of whom have won highly competitive industry and government fellowships in his group, and subsequently become leaders of the field in their own right in tenure-track academic positions, research labs, industry and startups.
Prior to joining UC San Diego, Ramamoorthi was on the faculty of the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department at UC Berkeley from January 2009 to June 2014. Since the fall of 2002 (until December 2008), he was on the faculty of the Columbia Computer Science Department. Before that (1998-2002), he completed his Ph.D. in the Stanford Computer Science Department, working in the Computer Graphics Laboratory with Pat Hanrahan. Earlier (1994-98), he was an undergraduate at the California Institute of Technology, getting a BS with Honor in Engineering and Applied Science, MS in Computer Science and an MS in Physics.