Illinois CS Adds Eight New Faculty, Broadening Expertise in NLP, Security, Robotics, and More

9/5/2019 David Mercer, Illinois Computer Science

New faculty bring expertise in everything from natural language processing, robotics, and security to biomedical informatics.

Written by David Mercer, Illinois Computer Science

This fall, eight new faculty have joined the growing roster of talented researchers and educators in Illinois Computer Science.

The newest members of the Illinois CS family bring expertise in everything from natural language processing, robotics, and security to biomedical informatics.

Since 2013, more than 40 new faculty have joined Illinois CS, bolstering its commitment to providing the best CS education in the country and ensuring the continued strength and growth of groundbreaking its research.

Our new faculty will enhance the experience our students receive in the classroom and build on the department’s excellence in research.

Associate Professor Kris Hauser
Kris Hauser
Associate Professor Kris Hauser
Kris Hauser’s research is in the field of robotics with specializations in motion planning and control, and in system integration. Applications of his work include intelligent vehicles, robotic manipulation, robot-assisted medicine, legged locomotion, and semiautonomous robots.

Hauser joins Illinois’ computer science department from Duke University, where he had been an associate professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department and the Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science Department. Prior to joining Duke in 2014, he was a member of the faculty at Indiana University from 2009-2014.

Hauser received his PhD in Computer Science from Stanford University in 2008 and bachelor's degrees in Computer Science and Mathematics from the University of California-Berkeley in 2003. He also worked as a postdoctoral fellow at UC-Berkeley.

He is a recipient of an NSF CAREER award, two Amazon Research Awards, a Stanford Graduate Fellowship, Siebel Scholar Fellowship, and a Best Paper Award at IEEE Humanoids 2015.

A strong believer in connecting research with practice, Hauser’s lab has also participated in several competitions, including the Amazon Robotics Challenge and the DARPA Robotics Challenge. At Illinois, he will lead a team for the ANA Avatar XPRIZE Challenge, which has the goal of building a robot “avatar” that can be teleoperated by humans to communicate and act across long distances.

Heng Ji
Heng Ji
Professor Heng Ji
Heng Ji’s research is focused on natural language processing, particularly information extraction and knowledge base population.

She joins Illinois CS from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where she was the Edward P. Hamilton Development Chair Professor in Computer Science.

Ji received her B.A. and M. A. in Computational Linguistics from Tsinghua University, and her M.S. and Ph.D. in Computer Science from New York University.

The World Economic Forum in 2016 and ’17 selected her as a Young Scientist and a member of the Global Future Council on the Future of Computing. She received IEEE Intelligent Systems’ "AI's 10 to Watch" Award in 2013; an NSF CAREER Award in 2009; Google Research Awards in 2009 and 2014; IBM Watson Faculty Awards in 2012 and 2014; Bosch Research Awards in 2015, 2016 and 2017; and Tencent’s AI Lab Rhino-Bird Award in 2019.

After being invited by the Secretary of the U.S. Air Force and the Air Force Research Laboratory, Ji was part of an expert panel on data analytics that helped inform a new Air Force science and technology strategy for 2030 and beyond. She also has coordinated the National Institute of Standards and Technology Text Analysis Conference Knowledge-Base Population task since 2010.

Elsewhere, Ji is the associate editor for IEEE/ACM Transaction on Audio, Speech, and Language Processing, and the program committee co-chair of 2018 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies (NAACL-HLT2018).

Assistant Professor Dakshita Khurana
Assistant Professor Dakshita Khurana
Assistant Professor Dakshita Khurana
Dakshita Khurana’s research focuses on the design of cryptographic protocols with provable security against attacks, laying the foundations for the prevention of coordinated or man-in-the-middle attacks and building variants of zero-knowledge proof systems.

At Illinois, Khurana says she is excited to continue pushing the boundaries of what cryptography can achieve, building stronger foundations of applied security. She is plans to explore connections between cryptography and other areas such as complexity and learning theory.

Khurana earned her PhD from UCLA in 2018 and earlier completed her bachelor’s degree at the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi.

Her research was recognized with a SICOMP FOCS 2017 Special Issue Invitation, a UCLA Dissertation Year Fellowship, the UCLA CS Outstanding Graduating Doctoral Student Award, and the Cisco and Symantec Outstanding Graduate Student Research Awards.

She joins Illinois after doing postdoctoral research at Microsoft Research New England.

Teaching Assistant Professor Hongye Liu
Teaching Assistant Professor Hongye Liu
Teaching Assistant Professor Hongye Liu
Hongye Liu joins Illinois CS after years of research in biomedical informatics, primarily in Boston’s Longwood Medical Area, including Harvard Medical School and its affiliated hospitals. She is driven by her interest in helping cure diseases and has conducted diverse data science-related research in areas such as bioinformatics, computational biology, biostatistics, and machine learning. Liu is particularly focused on biomedical applications that involve large, high-dimensional data analysis and machine learning.

She received her B. E. in Precision Machinery and Instrumentation from the University of Science and Technology of China and her PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the area of computer-aided design for 3-D printing.

Liu discovered her passion for teaching undergraduate students and training next generation of computer scientists and data-centered professionals while working with students, teaching, and reviewing academic works. She is particularly interested in helping undergraduate students conduct research and in mentoring underrepresented students.

Professor Lawrence Rauchwerger
Lawrence Rauchwerger
Professor Lawrence Rauchwerger
Lawrence Rauchwerger’s primary research interests are parallel and distributed programming environments, and compilers and architectures for parallel and distributed computing. His approach to auto-parallelization, thread-level speculation, and parallel code development has influenced industrial products at corporations such as IBM, Intel, and Sun.

He has held visiting positions at IBM T.J. Watson, INRIA Paris, ETH Zurich, and Google Brain, and he worked in the electronic industry before obtaining his graduate degrees.

Rauchwerger joined Illinois Computer Science from Texas A&M University, where he was the Eppright Professor of Computer Science and Engineering and co-director of the Parasol Lab.

Rauchwerger is also a graduate of the Department of Computer Science at Illinois, earning his PhD here in 1995. Earlier he received an Engineer degree from the Polytechnic Institute Bucharest, and an MS in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University.

Ling Ren
Ling Ren
Assistant Professor Ling Ren
Ling Ren’s focus is on computer security and cryptography, with the goal of designing algorithms, protocols, and systems that have both rigorous security guarantees and practical efficiency.

A 2018 PhD graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Ren focused on two areas while earning his degree. He worked first on Oblivious RAM, a cryptographic tool that protects user privacy in cloud storage and privacy-preserving computation. He designed algorithms for the tool and built them into secure processors.

More recently, Ren focused on consensus protocols, improving both their efficiency and fairness as they relate to cryptocurrencies.

Ren received his bachelor's degree from Tsinghua University and his master’s and, last year, his PhD from MIT.

Ren joins Illinois CS after spending a year at VMware Research as a postdoctoral researcher.

Associate Professor Hanghang Tong
Hanghang Tong
Associate Professor Hanghang Tong
Hanghang Tong’s research interest is in large-scale data mining for graphs and multimedia.

He joins Illinois CS from the faculty of the School of Computing, Informatics, and Decision Systems Engineering at Arizona State University. Prior to that, he was an assistant professor in the Computer Science Department at City College, City University of New York, a research staff member at IBM T.J. Watson Research Center, and a post-doctoral fellow at Carnegie Mellon University.

Tong received his MS in 2008 and PhD in 2009, both in machine learning, from Carnegie Mellon University.

He has received the SDM/IBM Early Career Data Mining Research Award in 2018, NSF CAREER award in 2017, ICDM 10-Year Highest Impact Paper award in 2015, among others. Tong also is the editor in chief of the Association for Computing Machinery’s SIGKDD Explorations and has served as a program committee member in multiple data mining, database and artificial intelligence venues.

Gang Wang
Gang Wang
Assistant Professor Gang Wang
Gang Wang's research focuses on human aspects of Internet security. His work takes a measurement-driven and data-centric approach to address emerging security threats in massive communication systems such as online social networks, crowdsourcing systems, mobile applications, and enterprise networks.

Currently, Gang is working to integrate human intelligence into the machine learning process to develop explainable and robust security systems.

Gang earned his PhD from the University of California-Santa Barbara in 2016 and his bachelor's degree from Tsinghua University in 2010. Before joining Illinois CS, he worked at Virginia Tech as an assistant professor from 2016 to 2019.

Gang is a recipient of an NSF CAREER Award in 2018, Google Faculty Research Award in 2017, and an ACM CCS Outstanding Paper Award in 2018, among other awards.

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This story was published September 5, 2019.