SCS Faculty Receive Endowed Professorships

Marylee WilliamsThursday, May 9, 2024

SCS faculty members Chris Donahue, Srinivasa Narasimhan, Guy Blelloch and Virginia Smith recently received endowed faculty chairs to recognize and support their work and research.

Four School of Computer Science professors recently received endowed faculty chairs to recognize and support their work and research.

Chris Donahue, an assistant professor in the Computer Science Department (CSD), received the Dannenberg Career Development Professorship. Donahue studies generative AI for music and creativity, and his work looks to improve how both musicians and nonmusicians use generative AI in creation. Donahue is the first recipient of this professorship, which SCS Professor Emeritus Roger Dannenberg established to support a faculty member teaching and conducting research in computation and music.

"It is truly a humbling and full-circle moment for me to receive the Dannenberg Career Development Professorship," Donahue said. "I am excited to be entering an era where computer music research, especially around AI, is already having a transformative impact on how music is created and by whom. I'm determined to be a responsible shepherd of this technology, and to help ensure that it has a positive impact on society."

CSD Professor Guy Blelloch and Srinivasa Narasimhan, a professor at the Robotics Institute (RI) with a courtesy appointment in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department (ECE), received the U.A. and Helen Whitaker Professorships of Computer Science.

Blelloch's research focuses on parallel algorithms and data structures, with a specific emphasis on programming language support for them. Narasimhan creates new imaging systems for healthcare, agriculture, intelligent transportation, oceanography and remote sensing. For example, the Illumination and Imaging Lab, for which he is the principal investigator, developed smart headlights that help people drive safely in poor weather.

The U.A. and Helen Whitaker Professorship was the first endowed chair in computer science established at CMU. Allen Newell, one of the founders in the fields of artificial intelligence and cognitive science, was first to earn this professorship in 1976, and in 1994 it was awarded to Takeo Kanade, SCS Founders University Professor in the RI.

"Following in the footsteps of two giant trailblazers, Newell and Kanade, humbles me and inspires me to rededicate my life to research that positively impacts society," said Narasimhan. "Biomedical research is a strong focus of the Whitaker Foundation, and I hope to fulfill the awesome responsibility of this chair by developing accessible path-breaking imaging systems for healthcare applications."

Virginia Smith, an assistant professor in the Machine Learning Department with a courtesy appointment in ECE, received the Leonardo Career Development Chair in SCS. Smith researches machine learning, optimization and distributed systems. Her research has powered applications including language modeling in mobile phones, smart home anomaly detection and pandemic forecasting across hospitals.

"I'm extremely honored to receive this chair, which will provide my lab with additional support to pursue our research in trustworthy machine learning," Smith said. "Modern machine learning pipelines increasingly rely on access to personal user data. My research aims to develop techniques that ensure the privacy and security of learning across this data at scale."

A reception recognizing both the recipients and the benefactors was held late last month.

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