He is working on domain-specific computer architectures for machine learning. He is also on the Board of Directors of the RISC-V Foundation, whose goal is to make the free and open RISC-V instruction set architecture as popular for hardware as Linux is for operating systems.
Dave's research style is to identify critical questions for the IT industry and gather inter-disciplinary groups of researchers to answer them. The answer is typically embodied in demonstration systems, and these demonstration systems are later mirrored in commercial products. The best-known projects were Reduced Instruction Set Computers (RISC), Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks (RAID), and Networks of Workstations (NOW), each of which helped lead to billion dollar industries.
A measure of the success of projects is the list of awards won by Patterson and as his teammates: the C & C Prize, the IEEE von Neumann Medal, the IEEE Johnson Storage Award, the SIGMOD Test of Time award, the ACM-IEEE Eckert-Mauchly Award, and the Katayanagi Prize. He was also elected to both AAAS societies, the National Academy of Engineering, the National Academy of Sciences, the Silicon Valley Engineering Hall of Fame, and to be a Fellow of the Computer History Museum. The full list includes about 40 awards for research, teaching, service, and outreach. In 2017 he shared the ACM A.M. Turing Award with John Hennessy.
In his spare time he coauthored seven books, including two with John Hennessy. He also served as Chair of the Computer Science Division at UC Berkeley, Chair of the Computing Research Association, and President of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM).
Outside of work he plays soccer, cycles, and lifts weights. He has been married to his high-school sweetheart since 1967, and they have raised two sons, who in turn are raising three grandchildren.