Two computer science faculty named ACM fellows

Kavita Bala, professor and chair of computer science, and Claire Cardie, professor of computer science and of information science, have been named 2019 fellows of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), the world’s largest educational and scientific computing society.

Cardie and Bala are among 58 new fellows from universities, companies and research centers around the world honored for their “wide-ranging and fundamental contributions” to computing, according to ACM’s announcement.

“Computing technology has had a tremendous impact in shaping how we live and work today,” said Cherri M. Pancake, president of the ACM. “All of the technologies that directly or indirectly influence us are the result of countless hours of collaborative and/or individual work, as well as creative inspiration and, at times, informed risk-taking.”

Bala was recognized by the society for contributions to physically based rendering and perceptually based scene understanding – both of which relate to creating and understanding digital images as humans perceive them.

On the computer graphics side, Bala studies how to produce images that match reality by simulating the physics of how light interacts with materials and shapes to create virtual models that look exactly like reality. When it comes to computer vision, she researches how people perceive the visual world when they interact with digital images.

“The common theme of my research is using knowledge of human perception on both sides,” she said. “I try to produce images that represent what is important to people perceptually, and I try to understand how people perceive the world, and I think there’s a lot of exciting work to be done there.”

Cardie was recognized for contributions to natural language processing, including co-reference resolution, and information and opinion extraction.

In her research, she develops methods to automatically analyze documents and extract key points of interest, in order to build databases of information on certain topics. She’s also working on computational techniques that can extract subjective statements, to find out who is making positive or negative statements about a person, entity or idea. And she builds systems that can identify topics of interest even when they’re referred to by disparate terminology.

“We want to make important information that’s in a document available to users, without having to read a lot of irrelevant text,” she said. “For me it’s exciting to try to build systems that can do anything human-like, even if it’s not at the same level of performance as people.”

Past ACM fellows from Computing and Information Science include Lillian Lee ’93, professor of computer and information science (2018); and Carla Gomes, professor of computer science (2017).

The fellows will be honored at ACM’s annual awards banquet in June.

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Jeff Tyson