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Department welcomes five new faculty

Tue August 7, 2012

We are pleased to announce that five new tenure-track faculty will join our CS department as Assistant Professors. Yuriy Brun, Evangelos Kalogerakis, Alexandra Meliou, and Daniel Sheldon will join the department in September, and Arjun Guha will arrive in September 2013.  The new faculty have research strengths in bioinformatics, computer graphics, data management, programming languages, and software engineering.

“We had a terrific recruiting year,” Department Chair Lori Clarke said. “In each of the areas where we were looking for faculty, we were able to attract our top candidate. All five of our new hires have impressive credentials and should really help expand the research and teaching mission of the department.”

Yuriy Brun joins the department in September as an Assistant Professor.  His research is in software engineering — ensuring complex software systems function properly — with a partial emphasis on reliability and privacy in distributed systems.

“To ease building software systems,” Brun says, “we must understand the processes developers follow and create tools and techniques that help model, design, and implement them.”  The long-term goal is to learn how to manage behavior: from helping developers understand that behavior, to empowering systems to observe and alter their own behavior.  Brun adds, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could build self-adaptive systems?  Ones that can adapt their own behavior to achieve high-level goals in dynamic, constrained environments?” 

Brun comes from the University of Washington, where he was a Computing Innovation postdoctoral fellow, funded by a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to the Computing Research Association (CRA).  He received a Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Southern California in 2008, as an Andrew Viterbi fellow, and an M.Eng. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from MIT in 2003.  His doctoral research was a finalist in the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) doctoral dissertation competition.

“I am extremely excited to move back to Massachusetts,” says Brun.  He immigrated to the Boston area from Moscow, Russia in 1992.  “New Englanders are special people.  I’m an avid Red Sox fan and have missed them while living in Los Angeles and Seattle.  It’s great to be back!” 

In September, Evangelos Kalogerakis will join the department as an Assistant Professor. His research deals with the development of the next generation computer graphics techniques that will enhance human creativity and automate complex visual content processing tasks for novice users, scientists, and artists.

“I am very excited to develop algorithms and tools that allow users to quickly and easily create, edit, customize, texture, animate, and artistically render three-dimensional content for virtual worlds, computer games, films, architecture, computer-aided design, and information visualization” says Kalogerakis.

Kalogerakis is particularly interested in developing machine learning algorithms for computer graphics. “Automating complex geometry processing and 3D modeling tasks requires algorithms that understand shapes, their structure and deformation modes. Machine learning will play a key role in the development of such algorithms” says Kalogerakis. During his doctoral and post-doctoral studies, he introduced machine learning algorithms for complex geometry processing and artistic rendering tasks, such as shape segmentation and labeling, shape synthesis, assembly-based modeling, and non-photorealistic rendering.

“I am very delighted to join the department of Computer Science at UMass Amherst. The research taking place in the department is very exciting, particularly in the areas of machine learning, vision and graphics, which interest me the most. I look forward to collaborating with other faculty members and students.”

From 2010 to 2012, Kalogerakis was a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Computer Graphics lab of Stanford University. He earned an M.S. and Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Toronto in 2006 and 2010, respectively, and a BEng in Electronics and Computer Engineering from the Technical University of Crete in 2005.


Kalogerakis received the NSERC (Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada) Alexander Graham Fellowship in 2009. He also received the international EPFL Dimitris N. Chorafas Award for his Ph.D. work as well as fellowships from the Ontario Ministry of Education, the Bodossaki Foundation, and the Greek State Scholarships Foundation.

Alexandra Meliou is joining the department in September as an Assistant Professor. Her research is in the area of data and information management, with an emphasis on provenance, causality, and reverse data management.

“We use, generate, and share data at an unprecedented scale. It is often essential to reverse engineer changes that happen to this data, in order to explain observations and behaviors, audit systems for violations, and correct errors at their origins,” says Meliou. One application of her research intersects database systems and business intelligence applications. “I want to extend the capabilities of modern database systems to support business decisions and strategy planning queries, which commonly involve optimization problems over large data.”

Prior to joining UMass Amherst, Meliou was a Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Washington. She received an M.S. and a Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of California, Berkeley in 2005 and 2009, respectively, and a B.S. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the National Technical University of Athens in 2003. Meliou received a Siebel Scholarship in 2008, and regularly serves on the program committees of the leading database conferences.

“The department has outstanding faculty culture, which promises stimulating collaborations with brilliant researchers and talented students,” says Meliou. “I am very excited to become part of such a lively academic community.”

Daniel Sheldon joins the department in September as an Assistant Professor. His appointment is a Five College Consortium joint faculty position shared by UMass Amherst and Mount Holyoke College.  His research interests are in computational ecology and environmental science and machine learning.

“I believe that massive data sets can change the way we understand and make decisions about the environment, but we haven’t built the algorithmic toolkit to realize this opportunity,” says Sheldon. “I want to change that.” He seeks to answer foundational questions (what are the general models and principles that underlie big data problems in ecology?) and also to build applications that transform large-scale data resources into scientific knowledge and policy. Methodologically, Sheldon’s primary interests are machine learning, probabilistic inference, and network modeling.

Sheldon investigates diverse topics that combine computing and the environment. He is currently leading the NSF-funded BirdCast project to develop novel machine learning methods for modeling and forecasting bird migration. BirdCast is based on his work on Collective Graphical Models, a new formalism for inference and learning using aggregate data.  He also develops algorithms to optimize land acquisition for endangered species conservation, and machine learning algorithms to extract biological patterns from weather radar data.

“It is a great joy to work in a subject area that is directly relevant to science and society, and, at the same time, possesses difficult technical problems that need the attention of computer science researchers,” says Sheldon.

Most recently, he was a Postdoctoral Fellow in the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Oregon State University, where he held an NSF Fellowship in Bioinformatics. Sheldon received a Ph.D. in Computer Science at Cornell University in 2009 and an A.B. in Mathematics from Dartmouth College in 1999. Between 1999 and 2004, he worked at Akamai Technologies and DataPower Technology.

“I’m delighted to step into this unique position,” says Sheldon. “The UMass Amherst CS department is an outstanding environment for research and collaboration, and I will enjoy the added pleasure of teaching at Mt. Holyoke, which is an amazing liberal arts college.”

Arjun Guha will join the department in fall 2013. He will receive his Ph.D. in Computer Science at Brown University in 2012 and will be a Postdoctoral Researcher at Cornell University prior to joining UMass Amherst. His research interests lie at the intersection of programming languages and security. More details on Guha’s research will be highlighted in 2013.