Pausch, Randy

Pausch at CHI 1995
Randy Pausch at the ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in Denver, CO, May 7-11, 1995.

Randy Pausch (1960  2008) was a Professor of Computer Science, Human-Computer Interaction, and Design at Carnegie Mellon, where he was the co-founder of Carnegie Mellon’s Entertainment Technology Center (ETC). He brought together artists, dramatists, designers, and computer scientists to create innovative technology. He was a National Science Foundation Presidential Young Investigator and a Lilly Foundation Teaching Fellow.

Pausch was the driving force behind the virtual world programming environment “Alice” and its “playful learning” pedagogy. It enables college, high school, and middle school students to develop their own characters in 3D virtual worlds and modify the behavior of those characters. He extended the project with “Storytelling Alice”, which gave middle school girls a positive first experience with computer programming. He wrote a book on the project, which is currently in use at more than 250 colleges and universities. He also created the Simple User Interface Toolkit (SUIT) for formal user testing of theme park attractions and co-founded the Carnegie Mellon Entertainment Technology Center at CMU, which offers the world’s only Master of Entertainment Technology degree.

Pausch at CHI 2005
Randy Pausch at the ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in Portland, OR, April 2-7, 2005.

He did sabbaticals at Walt Disney Imagineering and Electronic Arts (EA) and consulted with Google on user interface design. Pausch received his bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from Brown University and his Ph.D. in Computer Science from Carnegie Mellon University. He authored or co-authored five books and more than 70 articles. He was a pioneer in the development of virtual reality, having designed the “Building Virtual Worlds” class at CMU.

He is famous outside of academia due to his inspiring speech in “The Last Lecture”, where he spoke on how he achieved his childhood dreams and shared insights on how to live a good life. He died of pancreatic cancer on July 24, 2008.

“Randy Pausch’s energetic style and prolific publication record made him a quickly-rising young star. He made noticeable advances with his user interface software engineering tools, virtual reality systems (Worlds in Miniature and Virtual Reality on $5 a Day), and an innovative 3D animation system (Alice) for teaching programming. His work with Disney Imagineering brought fresh ideas to the user interface and the entertainment communities. Randy’s enthusiasm and passion was infectious, attracting students and devoted fans, including me. He often made clever, powerful comments about research and life, such as this memorable quote: ‘When people are arguing about apples or oranges, bring them a watermelon.’ He courageously fought pancreatic cancer and shared his story through the inspirational and moving Last Lecture: Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams (September 18, 2007), which has been viewed more than 18 million times. Randy holds a special place in my professional memories – he still makes me smile and pushes me to do better.” – Ben Shneiderman


  • Ph.D. in Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University (1988)
  • B.S. in Computer Science, Brown University (1982)


  • Professor (2000 2008), Co-Director of the Entertainment Technology Center (1998 2008), Associate Professor (1997 2000), Carnegie Mellon University
  • Sabbatical with Walt Disney Imagineering Virtual Reality Studio (1995)
  • Associate Professor of Computer Science (1993 1997), Assistant Professor (1988 1993), University of Virginia
  • Member of Technical Staff, Adobe Systems, Inc., Palo Alto, CA (1984)
  • Summer Research Intern, Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (1983)
  • Research Assistant, Carnegie-Mellon University (1982 – 1988)


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