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Fulton Watson Copp Chair in Computer Science

The Fulton Watson Copp Chair was established with a gift from Mr. Copp's estate. The Copp Chair was established to recognize a faculty member who is internationally renown leader in computer science, has an ongoing research program central to the mission of the department, and is a prominent educator with a reputation for outstanding, innovative teaching.

Fulton Copp earned his BS in electrical engineering in 1925. He was a member of the ROTC and served in the Calvary. Early in his career he managed a gold mine in the Sierras. During World War II, he served in the Corps of Engineers and was involved in the construction of Army hospitals and airfields in this country and the Pacific. He retired as a Lt. Col. from the reserves in 1962.

After the war, Mr. Copp was involved in the construction and management of natural gas pipelines in the U.S., Australia, and Canada. He was also worked on oil extraction from shale. He retired in 1972 from the Bechtel Corporation. Mr. Copp died in 1990.


David A. Forsyth
David A. Forsyth

A leading researcher in computer vision, Professor David A. Forsyth, the Fulton Watson Copp Chair in Computer Science, has made distinctive contributions to human motion computing (detecting, understanding, and animating what people do), to how computers relate words and pictures, and to rendering objects into photographs. 

Forsyth's group started the trend of attaching words to images by developing an award-winning model of object recognition as machine translation that could annotate image regions with words.  More recent work in this area offered the first method to produce sentences that describe images; this, too, is now a hot topic. In collaboration with Professor Derek Hoiem, also of Illinois, Forsyth's group showed how to describe unfamiliar objects in pictures by computing their attributes.  This is now a standard strategy in object recognition.

Forsyth’s group has studied methods to analyze pictures and movies of people.  He wrote important early papers which showed how to tell whether there were human nudes in a picture, now an important practical application.  The group developed the first robust, accurate human tracker that can reliably report the configurations of arms and legs, and which does not need to be started by hand.  The group also developed widely-cited methods for rearranging motion-capture data to produce highly-realistic human animations.

Recent work on realistically rendering synthetic objects into legacy photographs was widely covered (e.g., Wired, The Atlantic, Popular Science, New Scientist, and IEEE Spectrum), and has resulted in two patents.

Forsyth is a highly visible educator in computer vision.  His book, “Computer Vision: A Modern Approach,” (with Jean Ponce), is widely adopted as a course text, since it provides a unified vision of the field.   Many ex-students are influential professors in computer vision, and two of his ex students have been awarded the Marr prize for work as professors.

Currently in a second term as Editor-in-Chief for IEEE Transactions on Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence, Forsyth has regularly served as a program or general chair for the top conferences in computer vision. 

A Fellow of the ACM (2014) and IEEE (2009), Forsyth has also been recognized with the IEEE Computer Society’s Technical Achievement Award (2005), the Marr Prize, and a prize for best paper in cognitive computer vision (ECCV 2002).  Forsyth received his PhD from Oxford University in 1989, after completing bachelor’s degrees from the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.  He subsequently joined the University of California, Berkeley, where he attained the rank of full professor before joining Illinois in 2004.


Michael T. Heath
Michael T. Heath

Emeritus Professor Michael T. Heath was the first to hold the Fulton Watson Copp Chair in Computer Science, from 2003 to 2012. Heath received his PhD from Stanford University in 1978. His main research areas are in scientific and parallel computing.

Before his retirement in 2012, Heath was the Director of Computational Science and Engineering Program and the Director of the Center for Simulation of Advanced Rockets. Heath served as interim head of the Department of Computer Science from 2007 to 2009. An ACM and SIAM Fellow, his honors also include the IEEE Computer Society's Taylor L. Booth Education Award, the Apple Award for Innovation in Science, and the Campus Award for Excellence in Graduate and Professional Teaching.