Norm Aleks



Application essays

IBM 1130


SE (Search Engine)

This material is stale, and many of the links are broken. Sorry. Write me if there's something specific you want. If you're looking for my academic material, go here.

Something about me

Computer science: I'm a Ph.D. student at UC Berkeley, working with Stuart Russell. My research is in probabilistic modeling of human physiology, pharmacokinetics, and intensive care unit equipment, as well as some associated software problems. I work with patient data from San Francisco General Hospital's intensive care unit; aside from the long-range usefulness of these models, two of my intermediate goals include improving the accuracy of equipment alarms and reliably inferring patient state and causes of its change that can't be directly monitored. My project's website is here.

Medicine: I work part-time at Kaiser Permanente in San Francisco and Oakland, enough to keep up my anesthesia skills and pay the mortgage. My prior training was at UC San Francisco, for anesthesia residency and pain management fellowship. I went to medical school and did an internship in internal medicine at UMass Medical Center in Worcester, Mass. I'm board certified by the American Board of Anesthesiology.

How I got here: I regularly get asked how I got into medicine or anesthesia, and my answers are starting to sound pretty canned. But, I had to make an attempt while applying for anesthesia residency, and the resulting essay is the best I've expressed my thoughts on the matter (though I think my writing has improved since then). My pain management fellowship essay might also interest you, if you like that kind of thing. (I should also note that this essay is a good example of sounding more convinced than one is -- I had decided on pain management as a final destination, but realized just a couple of months into the fellowship that it was a wrong turn. Interesting stuff, but a wrong turn.) On going into engineering, my thoughts are still fresh enough that I could talk to you if you want! But I have an essay for that too. The switch to computer science was less traumatic, even though it did involve a re-application with its own essay (which I'll scan and put up "soon"); the core realization was that while what I want to do does fit into bioengineering, it fits more neatly and centrally into computer science. And this is my last degree, I promise you.

Where I'm From

I grew up in San Dimas, California (home of both Bill and Ted and Raging Waters ), then went to Pomona College before moving to Boston and working at Kodak in copier sales, Boston Bank of Commerce in LAN and telephone system administration, and Countway Medical Library supporting their MEDLINE search system.


Lately I've been listening to a lot of music by Don Seaver.

Two artists I know and like the work of are Michael Cummins and Claudia Graham -- I wish Claudia had a full page; her art is great.


I'm a technology junkie, and the tendency got markedly stronger over the two years I dated Brian Knittel. I do networking and Linux work for fun (though Mac OS X has taken some of the glow off Linux), and at various times I've gotten very interested in voice processing systems, elevator control systems, and wind power generation. My move toward combining engineering with anesthesia began early in dating Brian when we got to talking about how to do reliable, "intelligent" closed-loop control of anesthesia. How's that for a geeky relationship.

Outdoors, my main winter sport is snowboarding ... there are pictures from a couple of trips with Brian, Frank, and Pete below. And indoors, I have a lot of fun with country-western dancing -- Sunday nights used to be reserved for Sundance Saloon, though I've gotten out of that habit of late. It's huge fun -- check it out if you have any interest.

Hobbies on the Web: During med school I wrote The Mailing List Management Software FAQ. Good Lord, it's ancient, but people still look for it, so I leave a copy up. In mid-2001 Brian and I bought an IBM 1130 minicomputer, which we still jointly own, prompting my current major Web project, IBM1130.ORG (linked to above). (The 1130 was introduced in 1965, uses punch cards, is about the size of three desks, and has dramatically less power than an original Palm Pilot. Historical and nostalgic value only. Take a look! And if you like that, you should also look at the Computer History Museum .)


In December 2001 I bought my first digital camera, a Fujifilm FinePix 2600Z. My plan was to put up pictures frequently, and I did -- for almost a year. Maybe I'll get good again -- iPhoto or Picasa might help? -- but until then here's what I have so far:

IBM Typewriters

I've started this section to link to one particular project: Gerry Kaplan's site about the IBM Composer.

Meeting Gerry online was a kick -- he found the IBM 1130 page and mentioned in it that he was considering starting the Composer page I've linked to above. I literally gasped and within seconds wrote him back saying something to the effect of "my God, I lusted after those things when I was in high school!" In high school and college I'd collected several cool typewriters -- an IBM Mag Card Selectric, a plain Correcting Selectric II, a couple of manual machines, and an IBM Executive that I used for doing our homeowners' association newsletter. (That was a neat machine: proportional spacing with typebars!) I gave all the machines up when I moved to Boston. Talking to Gerry got me excited again and with his help I've gotten hold of two Mag Card Selectrics (both of which are unfixable, I've found ... but I'll look some more), and ... oooooh ... a Composer that I picked up from its owner in Arizona at the end of September. That one's in the repair shop now, but looks good, and finally I'll have that typewriter I wanted twenty years ago. Now, that's what getting older and acquiring an income is all about! Anyway, look at Gerry's page.


Bonus material: Here's some humor from my med school! It's a set of Madonna- themed songs performed in the second-year class show -- on the brink of leaving the classroom years to go into the clinical years. Sure, there's some visible bitterness, but a lot of affection too. The show was great fun every year.

If you want to drop me a note, my address is norm at My GPG key is here. Thanks for stopping by.