Dobkin was born February 29, 1948, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. After receiving a B.S. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1970, he moved to Harvard University for his graduate studies, receiving a Ph.D. in applied mathematics in 1973 under the supervision of Roger W. Brockett. After teaching at Yale University and the University of Arizona he moved to Princeton in 1981.[2] Initially appointed to the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, he was one of the first professors of Computer Science at Princeton when that department was formed in 1985.[3] In 1999, he became the first holder of the Goldman chair after its namesake donated two million dollars to the university.[4] He was chair of the Computer Science Department at Princeton from 1994 to 2003, and in 2003 was appointed Dean of the Faculty.[3] His Ph.D. students have included Michael Ian ShamosBernard Chazelle, and Diane Souvaine.[5]