Founder Professor of Engineering

The Founder Professorships of Engineering are made possible by the Grainger Engineering Breakthroughs Initiative, the result of a $100 million investment in the College of Engineering. The name commemorates Stillman Williams Robinson, the first faculty member to teach engineering at the University of Illinois and the first dean when the College of Engineering was organized in 1878.


In the Department of Computer Science, Founder Professorships are currently held by Professors Dan Roth and Tandy Warnow.

Dan Roth Dan Roth has been at the forefront of research in natural language understanding, machine learning and reasoning. A professor in the Department of Computer Science and the Beckman Institute, he also holds faculty appointments in the Statistics, Linguistics, and Electrical and Computer Engineering departments, and at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science.

Roth has done pioneering work that has helped bridge Learning and Reasoning in AI, including developing a theory integrating Learning and Reasoning, formally showing the benefit in jointly studying these important phenomena, and a highly influential constrained optimization framework that augments the learning of statistical models with declarative constraints. Building on these theories, Roth and his team have developed tools that can analyze human language, categorize it, parse it semantically, and “wikify” it—disambiguate it and map snippets of text to the relevant Wikipedia pages. These tools are used by numerous researchers and some commercial companies to access text in more sophisticated ways than a keyword search, which is used by search engines such as Google.

He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM), the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI), and the Association of Computational Linguistics (ACL), for his contributions to Machine Learning and to Natural Language Processing. He is the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research, and he has published broadly in machine learning, natural language processing, knowledge representation and reasoning, and learning theory, and has developed advanced machine learning based tools for natural language applications that are being used widely by the research community.


Tandy WarnowUpon joining the University of Illinois in 2014 as a professor in the Departments of Bioengineering and Computer Science, Tandy Warnow was named as one of the inaugural Founder Professors of Engineering. She is an expert in the application of mathematics and computer science to developing algorithms for complex problems in the fields of phylogenomics, which is the intersection of evolution and genomics, and metagenomics, which is the study of genetic material in the environment. She has also applied her work to historical linguistics, developing and using statistical models to capture the evolution of historical linguistic data and to develop and implement statistically-based and combinatorial methods to reconstruct language phylogenies.

Professor Warnow received her PhD in mathematics from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1991, and she subsequently joined Simon Tavaré and Michael Waterman as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Southern California from 1991 to 1992. She was on the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania from 1993 to 1999. Immediately prior to joining Illinois, she was the David Bruton Jr. Centennial Professor in Computer Science at the University of Texas at Austin. A Fellow of the ACM, Professor Warnow has received a number of prestigious awards and recognitions, including an NSF Young Investigator Award in 1994, a David and Lucile Packard Foundation Fellowship in 1996, a Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study Fellowship in 2003, and a John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship in 2011. Warnow served as the chair of the NIH study section on Biological Data Management and Analysis (BDMA) from 2010 to 2012.