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Kumar Brings Together Computing and Design

7/21/2016 9:35:00 AM

Assistant Professor Ranjitha Kumar received her PhD from Stanford University. Her expertise lies at the intersection of computer science and design. “The motivating theme behind the work I’ve been doing is the idea that all design—fundamentally—is driven by data,” she said.

Ranjitha Kumar
Ranjitha Kumar
Ranjitha Kumar

As Kumar explains it, though tools such as Photoshop and InDesign can provide blank pages for designers to fill in, they don’t do much to support creativity.  Kumar’s dissertation research focused on applying data mining and knowledge discovery techniques to help designers draw on prior work, introducing what Kumar calls “design mining.”

As an undergraduate, Kumar had an interest in graphic design and 3D modeling, but quickly became dissatisfied with the available tools.  During her PhD, she studied the way designers use software to identify opportunities to amplify human creativity with technology.  Her work bridges aspects of machine learning, data mining, human-computer interaction, cognitive science, theory, and system building.

Kumar spent a year between completing her PhD at Stanford and joining the department to found a new company, Apropose, Inc. “[At Apropose] we’re building applications to support Web designers by making it easier for them to leverage existing work in new projects.  Google wants to understand all the information on the Web. We want to understand all the design,” she said.

About Illinois, Kumar said, “Illinois is a great fit for me because I wanted colleagues and students who are excited about the technical aspect of HCI problems. At Illinois, there are tremendous opportunities to collaborate with other faculty in HCI, information retrieval, computer vision, and machine learning.”

Kumar has received best paper awards or nominations at both of the premiere HCI conferences (CHI and UIST), and has been recognized by the machine learning community through invited papers at IJCAI and ICML. She received a Stanford University School of Engineering Fellowship in 2007 and the Google PhD Fellowship in Design Development in 2011.