Professional Biography

Jennifer Widom is the Dean of Engineering and Professor of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering at Stanford University. She served as chair of the Computer Science Department from 2009-2014 and as Senior Associate Dean in Stanford's School of Engineering from 2014-2016. Her research interests span many aspects of nontraditional data management. Professor Widom received her Bachelor's degree from the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music in 1982 and her Computer Science Ph.D. from Cornell University in 1987. She was a Research Staff Member at IBM before joining the Stanford faculty in 1993. She is an ACM Fellow and a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the American Academy of Arts & Sciences; she received the ACM SIGMOD Edgar F. Codd Innovations Award in 2007, the ACM-W Athena Lecturer Award in 2015, and the EPFL-WISH Foundation Erna Hamburger Prize in 2018.

Massive Open Online Course

In 2011 Professor Widom created one of Stanford's three inaugural courses offered free to the world, a concept that became known as a MOOC, or Massive Open Online Course. Professor Widom was overwhelmed by the engagement and intense gratitude of tens of thousands of students worldwide, declaring it "the most rewarding experience of my career." She offered her Databases MOOC several times in synchronous fashion before dividing the material into a set of mini-courses that are available continuously for self-study. So far, Professor Widom's Databases MOOC has yielded about a million account sign-ups, eight million video views, 600,000 assignment submissions, and 30,000 statements of completion.


Professor Widom has been an avid traveler for decades. In addition to professional travel to international conferences and universities, she and her family regularly venture to far-flung destinations. In 2007-08, the family took time off from school and work to enjoy a full year of travel.

Putting It Together

Professor Widom's Instructional Odyssey combines her love of travel with the rich personal rewards of educating large numbers of students worldwide. Her Stanford-supported sabbatical provided an opportunity to explore broad educational impact beyond the California campus, and she has continued her travel-teaching on an occasional basis ever since. She jokingly names her endeavor a MOIC: Massive Open In-Person Course.