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Two CS Faculty Among Five New Founder Professors

9/29/2016 5:40:20 PM Rick Kubetz, Engineering Communications Office

The top-ranked College of Engineering at Illinois continues to build its legacy, adding several elite-level faculty researchers to its list of Founder Professors and the first Grainger Distinguished Chair in Engineering. In the Department of Computer Science, these include Timothy Chan (computational geometry), who will join the Illinois faculty in 2017, and Dan Roth (natural language processing).

In 2013, the College announced the establishment of the Grainger Engineering Breakthroughs Initiative (GEBI)—made possible by a $100 million gift by The Grainger Foundation—that aims to further cement Illinois’ leadership role in the fields of bioengineering and Big Data. In addition to funding undergraduate scholarships, expanded faculty, and facility renovations, the gift includes an endowment for attracting and retaining renowned scholars who will strongly contribute to the impact and international stature of engineering research and education at Illinois.

“We welcome our new faculty members and acknowledge the incredible advancements emanating from our existing campus laboratories,” said Andreas Cangellaris, dean of the College of Engineering. “Illinois has long been a global leader in engineering education and a driver of transformative innovation. Thanks to the Initiative, we are able to grow and diversify our faculty in these cross-disciplinary frontiers and enable them with the state-of-the-art facilities and resources they need to revolutionize the way we prevent disease, practice medicine, eradicate famine, and promote and enable wellness at the global scale.”

Timothy M. Chan
Founder Professor in Computer Science

Founder Professor Timothy Chan
Founder Professor Timothy Chan
Timothy Chan is a world leader in computational geometry, and more broadly, in the design and analysis of algorithms and data structures. As one of the field’s most productive and influential researchers, Chan has contributed a number of seminal results of fundamental importance with nearly 200 publications to date. His evolving plans include pivoting his powerful theoretical tools into the Big Data arena, where he argues that critical tasks in high-volume streaming/sketching can be formulated as geometry problems.

“Illinois has long been a world leader in computational geometry, and Timothy Chan strengthens our already excellent group,” stated Rob Rutenbar, head of the Department of Computer Science. “His recent work is changing how we think about dynamic geometric data structures, and creating novel ways to cast big data problems as questions that can be answered with geometry techniques.”

Chan comes to Illinois from the Cheriton School of Computer Science at University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, where he was a full professor and former University Research Chair in the Department of Computer Science. In the classroom, Chan excels at explaining difficult concepts cleanly and simply, making him a popular and respected teacher.

Dan Roth
Founder Professor in Computer Science

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.

Founder Professor Dan Roth
Founder Professor Dan Roth
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.

Other new Founder Professors are Alexander Stolyar (Industrial and Systems Engineering) and Rohit Bhargava (Bioengineering), while Rashid Bashir (Bioengineering) is the first Grainger Distinguished Chair in Engineering.  For the full story, see the College of Engineering’s article.

These five faculty members join four Founder Professors who have joined the College of Engineering faculty since 2013: Ed Seidel, Founder Professor in Physics; Jun Song, Founder Professor in Bioengineering and Physics; Yurii Vlasov, Founder Professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering; and, Tandy Warnow, Founder Professor in Bioengineering and Computer Science.