Computer Science welcomes 17 new faculty members

9/27/2023 Bruce Adams

Written by Bruce Adams

17 New Faculty Hired, Siebel Center for Computer Science in the background

Seventeen new faculty were hired into the ranks of Illinois Computer Science’s talented researchers and educators this past year, with five having joined the department for the Fall 2023 semester, one joining in December 2023, two more joining in Spring 2024, and seven beginning their positions in Fall 2024.

The new arrivals add wide-ranging areas of expertise and interest – from machine learning to language as design to computational molecule design and to human-computer interaction – furthering the department’s depth and breadth in CS scholarship, research, and education.

Teaching Associate Professor David Dalpiaz

David Dalpiaz David Dalpiaz joined the CS Illinois faculty in Fall 2023 and has taught in the Department of Statistics. He is currently working on Writing Atomic R, a textbook introducing the R programming language, developing bbd, an R package for accessing baseball data, contributing to the PrairieLearn R autograder, researching accessibility needs and best practices in STEM education, and applying statistical methodology to public baseball data. He holds a PhD in Statistics and a BS in Mathematics from Illinois.


Teaching Assistant Professor Pablo Robles Granda

Pablo Robles-Granda Pablo Robles Granda joined the CS Illinois Faculty in Fall 2023, teaching Data and Systems. He has a joint appointment in the Psychology Department at Illinois. He is a member of the Roster of Experts of the World Health Organization Digital Health Technical Advisory Group. His research focuses on probabilistic and relational approaches to machine Learning and statistics and their applications on observational and experimental data in Health Informatics, Cognitive Science, and Neuroscience. Previously, he was a Research Assistant Professor in computer science and engineering at the University of Notre Dame. In December 2017, he received a PhD in Computer Science from Purdue University.


Assistant Professor Ashish Kumar 

Ashish Kumar will join the faculty with a joint appointment to the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in Fall 2023. He currently works at Tesla with the team building their humanoid robot, Optimus. Kumar received a PhD in Computer Science from the University of California, Berkeley. Before that, he was a Research Fellow at Microsoft Research India, where I worked on developing Resource Efficient Machine Learning algorithms. Kumar is broadly interested in Robotics, focusing on developing efficient deployable algorithms for locomotion and navigation. He completed his undergraduate study at the Indian Institute of Technology Jodhpur, majoring in Computer Science and Engineering.

Teaching Associate Professor Livingston McPherson

Livingston McPherson joined the faculty in the Fall 2023 semester after working as a postdoctoral scholar at the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. They received their B.S. with honors from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in 2015 and an M.S. from the University of California Berkeley in 2018 with a thesis designing origami bug robots for collaborative locomotion. Continuing at UC Berkeley for a PhD in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, they completed their thesis studies in 2022 by combining cognitive science with AI to create transparently safe human-robot collaborations. Now, they mentor students in research and scientific communication to discover how intelligent machines can support human understanding through active collaboration.

Assistant Professor Koustuv Saha

Koustuv Saha Koustuv Saha started as an Assistant Professor of Computer Science in Fall 2023. His research interest is social computing, computational social science, human-centered machine learning, and FATE. He uses machine learning, natural language, and causal inference analysis to examine human behavior and well-being using digital data, including social media and multimodal sensing data. His work questions the underlying assumptions of data-driven inferences and the possible harms such inferences might lead to. His research is situated in an interdisciplinary and human-centered context.

He earned his B.Tech (Hons.) in Computer Science and Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kharagpur. He completed his Ph.D. in Computer Science from Georgia Tech in 2012, where he received the 2021 Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation Award from the College of Computing.

He was previously a Senior Researcher in the Fairness, Accountability, Transparency, and Ethics in AI (FATE) group at Microsoft Research, Montreal. During his Ph.D., he interned at Snap Research, Microsoft Research, Max Planck Institute, and Fred Hutch Cancer Research. The government of India awarded him the NTSE Scholarship, and he has six years of industry research experience.

Teaching Assistant Professor Jule Schatz

Jule Schatz Jule Schatz joined the faculty in the Fall 2023 semester, teaching CS 128. Schatz started teaching computer science as an undergrad student in 2015 at the University of Michigan and has taught in C++, Python, and Java, covering many topics, including introductory computer science (loops, if-statements, functions, etc.), data structures, and artificial intelligence. She obtained her PhD from Michigan in 2023.



Assistant Professor Sharifa Sultana

Sharifa Sultana Sharifa Sultana joined the faculty in Fall 2023. She is a human-computer interaction (HCI) researcher, connecting computing, justice, faith, and access to support the empowerment of marginalized communities worldwide.

She has expertise in HCI, design theory, South Asian feminism, and science and technology studies (STS). She has worked with rural marginalized communities in Bangladesh and Iranian immigrants in Canada for six years. Sultana uses quantitative and qualitative (ethnographic) techniques and social justice frameworks to study and design computational tools and systems. Her research has brought novel perspectives into decoloniality, feminism, access, and polyvocality in HCI and information and communication technology for development (ICTD). 

She was a Lecturer of Computer Science (CS) at the Independent University, Bangladesh, and a Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) at the University of South Asia, Bangladesh. She has worked for PrimeSilicon Technologies (Bangladesh) as a Placement and Routing (PnR) Engineer.

She completed her PhD in Information Science at Cornell University in 2023. She obtained her Electrical and Electronic Engineering undergraduate degree from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), majoring in Telecommunication Engineering and Digital Signal Processing.

Professor Tong Zhang

Tong Zhang Tong Zhang will join Illinois CS in December 2023. He comes to Urbana-Champaign from a position as a Computer Science and Mathematics professor at The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Previously, he was a professor at Rutgers University and worked at IBM, Yahoo, Baidu, and Tencent.

Tong Zhang's research interests include machine learning algorithms and theory, statistical methods for big data, and their applications. He is a fellow of ASA, IEEE, and IMS, and he has been on the editorial boards of leading machine learning journals and program committees of top machine learning conferences.

Tong Zhang received a B.A. in mathematics and computer science from Cornell University and a PhD in Computer Science from Stanford University.

Assistant Professor William (Billy) Moses

Billy Moses Billy Moses will join the CS Illinois faculty as an assistant professor in Spring 2024. He will also become an affiliate faculty member of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the Coordinated Science Laboratory.

Moses comes to Illinois from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he received his PhD in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science in 2023, his MEng in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, his S.B. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and his S.B. in Physics in 2017.


Professor Dilek Hakkani-Tur

Dilek Hakkani-Tur Dilek Hakkani-Tur comes to the CS faculty from Amazon Alexa AI, where she was a senior principal scientist. She was also a distinguished visiting instructor at the University of California Santa Cruz. She will begin at Urbana-Champaign in Spring 2024.

Dr. Hakkani-Tur received an MS in 1996 and a PhD in computer engineering from Bilkent University, Turkey, in 2000. She also holds a BS from Middle East Technical University (1994). As a researcher, she has been granted over 70 patents, has co-authored more than 200 papers in natural language and speech processing, and won dozens of awards. She brings deep Natural Language Processing expertise and practical experience to her new position at Illinois.

Research Professor Gokhan Tur

Gokhan Tur Gokhan Tur will join the faculty in Spring 2024. He is a leading artificial intelligence (AI) expert, especially on conversational AI systems. He has been involved with Apple Siri, Microsoft Cortana, Google Assistant, and Amazon Alexa systems. He received a PhD in Computer Science from Bilkent University, Turkey, in 2000. Between 1997 and 1999, he was a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Mellon University Language Technologies Institute, Johns Hopkins University, and SRI International Speech Lab.

 At AT&T Research from 2001-2006, he worked on pioneering conversational systems and has worked for the DARPA GALE and CALO projects at SRI International from 2006-2010. He was a founding member of the Microsoft Cortana team and later the Conversational Systems Lab at Microsoft Research. He worked as the Conversational Understanding Architect at the Apple Siri team and the Deep Conversational Understanding TLM at Google Research and was a founding area director at Uber AI. Lastly, he was a Senior Principal Scientist at Amazon Alexa AI.

Assistant Professor Minjia Zhang

Minjia Zhang Minjia Zhang joins the faculty in Spring 2024. He comes to Illinois from Microsoft, where he is a Principal Engineer. His research interests lie in programmability, performance, and scalability in parallel runtime and machine learning systems, particularly emphasizing the intersection of novel machine learning algorithms and AI systems. He joined Microsoft Research at Redmond as a Senior Research Software Development Engineer in 2016. Before joining Microsoft, he received his PhD from the Computer Science and Engineering Department at Ohio State University.


Assistant Professor Tal August

Tal August Tal August will join the Illinois CS faculty for the Fall 2024 semester. He received his PhD from the University of Washington and is a postdoctoral researcher at the Allen Institute for AI (AI2). His work focuses primarily on Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) while combining research in Natural Language Processing (NLP).  August studies ways of making language more approachable to different readers and builds reading tools to make this flexibility automatic. He refers to this work as language as design. August is building reading tools to make scientific language more approachable, such as automatically identifying writing strategies used in science blogs and articles to engage different audiences. In the past, he has examined how language styles (e.g., formality vs. informality, types of framing) influence user behavior in online experiments.

Assistant Professor Fernando Granha Jeronimo

 Fernando Granha Jeronimo will join the faculty in the Fall 2024 semester.  He has been investigating problems involving coding theory, expanders, and high-dimensional expanders, optimization such as the sum-of-squares hierarchy, representation theory of the symmetric group, and quantum. Interactions among these areas are very present in his research. He is also particularly intrigued by the many connections between CS theory and mathematics.

He comes from a year as a Simons-Berkeley fellow. Before that, he was a postdoc at the Institute for Advanced Study and obtained his PhD from the University of Chicago. He received a B.Sc. and M.Sc. degrees from Unicamp in his home country of Brazil and an engineering degree from Telecom Paris (France) as part of a double degree program.

Assistant Professor Fan Lai

Fan Lai Fan Lai will join the CS Illinois faculty in Fall 2024. He obtained a PhD from the University of Michigan in 2023, where he received the Richard and Eleanor Towner Prize from the College of Engineering and worked as a visiting researcher at Meta AI. His research interests include machine learning systems, cloud computing, and networked systems, bringing together machine learning, systems, and computer networking to develop practical systems for efficient pervasive ML and data analytics in the cloud and up to the planetary scale. His systems have been adopted by companies such as Meta, LinkedIn, and Cisco.

Assistant Professor Ge Liu

Ge Liu Ge Liu will join the CS Illinois faculty in Fall 2024. She received her PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her research develops uncertainty-aware, reliable, efficient, and interpretable machine learning and optimization techniques, as well as novel experiment frameworks and computational tools, for solving important problems in synthetic biology, immunology, and molecular biology that go beyond predictive modeling She is interested in computational molecule design for therapeutic and prophylactic medicines, including but not limited to antibody design and vaccine design. In machine learning, she works on deep sequential modeling, black-box optimization, active learning, reinforcement learning, recommender systems and time series, model interpretability, and model uncertainty for deep neural networks.

Assistant Professor Jiaxuan You

Jiaxuan You Jiaxuan You comes to Illinois from Stanford University and will take a position in the CS faculty in Fall 2024. His research aims to develop data-driven methods to study our interconnected world. He is broadly interested in deep learning for graphs, relational data, and databases. He is also excited about knowledge-augmented LLMs and multi-modal foundation models. He received his PhD and M.S. degrees from Stanford's Department of Computer Science.




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This story was published September 27, 2023.