[unrev-II] [urev-II] Ruzena Bajcsy: a new CITRIS director with prominent & high-impact interdisciplinary experience

From: John J. Deneen (jjdeneen@netzero.net)
Date: Sun Oct 14 2001 - 11:53:41 PDT

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    UC Berkeley hires prominent researcher with passion to improve lives
    through new technology

    04 October 2001
    By Sarah Yang, Media Relations
    < http://www.berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2001/10/04_Bajcsy.html >

    "Berkeley - For pioneering researcher Ruzena Bajcsy, fostering
    cutting-edge technology to improve people's lives is a noble challenge.
    It is with this belief that Bajcsy comes to the University of
    California, Berkeley on Nov. 1 as the new director of the Center for
    Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS).

    CITRIS brings together four UC campuses - Berkeley, Davis, Merced and
    Santa Cruz - with private industry in an ambitious initiative to develop
    innovative technology that tackles some of society's most pressing
    problems. It is one of four California Institutes for Science and
    Innovation born out of Gov. Gray Davis' call to develop the foundation
    for the next generation of technologies.

    Bajcsy is the former head of the Directorate for Computer and
    Information Science and Engineering at the National Science Foundation
    (NSF), the federal agency that supports research in science and
    engineering. During her tenure at the NSF, Bajcsy helped establish the
    foundation's Information Technology Research program, which funds
    innovative, high-impact research supporting infrastructure in
    information technology.

    "The vision of where information technology research has to go as
    articulated in that (NSF) program is exactly what we're doing at CITRIS.
    We're taking IT (information technology) and using it in a way that
    affects people in their daily lives," said Randy Katz, professor of
    electrical engineering and computer science at UC Berkeley. Katz had
    been serving as interim director of CITRIS during the center's initial
    conceptual and organizational phases.

    Initiatives at CITRIS include the development of a wireless network of
    tiny, cheap sensors that could monitor energy use in a building to help
    save electricity. Sensors could also be used in traffic monitoring
    systems to save fuel otherwise wasted in congestion. People at risk for
    heart attacks could wear sensors that could save lives by signaling
    emergency personnel should a health problem occur.

    "CITRIS is more than just developing new technology for its own sake,"
    said Paul Gray, executive vice chancellor and provost at UC Berkeley.
    "The projects that go on in the institute will be a marriage of
    important applications, from the delivery of health care to developing
    systems of climate monitoring."

    CITRIS received $20 million in state funding this fiscal year, the first
    of four installments of a $100 million state commitment to the overall

    "We're fortunate to be able to attract someone of Ruzena's expertise and
    experience," said A. Richard Newton, dean of the College of Engineering
    at UC Berkeley. "For a project of this size and scope, we really needed
    a leader with an international reputation and with extensive management
    experience, but the most important thing about Ruzena is that she is
    absolutely passionate about what we're going to do in CITRIS."

    Bajcsy is a top scientist in her own right with more than 40 years of
    research experience, most notably in the fields of robotics, artificial
    intelligence and machine perception. At the University of Pennsylvania,
    Bajcsy served as director of the General Robotics and Active Sensory
    Perception Laboratory (GRASP), a world-renowned research lab she founded
    in 1978.

    Bajcsy's credentials reach across the traditionally discrete fields of
    neuroscience, applied mechanics and computer science. She is a member of
    both the National Academy of Engineering and the Institute of Medicine,
    a distinction few people can match.

    "I studied biology and psychology because the best machine is the human
    machine. After all, modern evolution is the best engineer you can
    imagine," said Bajcsy. Understanding the needs of researchers in varying
    fields has helped Bajcsy develop a strong track record for building
    interdisciplinary consensus, a key skill needed in a CITRIS director,
    said Newton.

    As director, Bajcsy will be responsible for setting the research agenda
    at CITRIS and communicating the center's vision to the general public,
    legislators and private industry.

    "She has demonstrated a real flair for synthesizing the views of many
    different people with different backgrounds and expertise, and getting
    them to work together productively," said Katz. "This skill will serve
    her very well within the broad community of researchers that encompass

    But Bajcsy's extensive professional credentials reveal only part of her
    story. Born Jewish in Slovakia at a time when Adolf Hitler rose to
    power, Bajcsy experienced the horrors of persecution firsthand. Her
    parents and most of her relatives were killed by Nazi troops in 1944,
    leaving her an orphan at the age of 11.

    What Hitler's army could not kill, however, were the values Bajcsy's
    family instilled in her as a young girl. Her love of engineering came
    from her father, a civil engineer. Her interest in medicine and in
    helping others came from her mother, a pediatrician. And the drive to
    flourish in a field that to this day is underrepresented by women and
    minorities came from her family.

    "I grew up in a family where women were expected to hold their own," she
    said. "My mother and my aunt were among the first female medical doctors
    in the central Czech area. My grandfather believed women should be

    Bajcsy went on to obtain her master's and Ph.D. degrees in electrical
    engineering from Slovak Technical University in 1957 and 1967,
    respectively. In 1972, she earned a second Ph.D., in computer science,
    from Stanford University.

    After graduating from Stanford, Bajcsy joined the faculty of the
    University of Pennsylvania as an assistant professor in the Department
    of Computer and Information Science. When she was promoted chair of the
    department 13 years later, she became the first woman to hold an
    academic administrative position at the university's School of
    Engineering and Applied Science.

    Bajcsy broke another barrier in 1998 when she became the first woman to
    head the Computer and Information Science and Engineering Directorate of
    the NSF.

    Grateful to have survived her tumultuous childhood, Bajcsy emerged with
    the determination to make a positive impact on society. "You grow up
    under that circumstance very quickly," said Bajcsy. "That puts a certain
    value system into you. You quickly recognize what is important and what
    is less important."

    And what is important in technology research, said Bajcsy, is
    understanding its impact on people. "We eventually have to make very
    clear where the dangers can be in abusing the technology we develop,"
    she said. "The sensor network for monitoring the environment, for
    example, can be useful, but it can also bring up the question of privacy
    and how it can be used to control people. These are issues beyond
    technology. These are issues that are ethical and moral."

    It is part of the responsibility of scientists to understand and to
    address those tough ethical issues, said Bajcsy. "I'm a scientist, first
    and above all, but I am also a scientist with great social consciousnes
    excited about this center (CITRIS). Its aim is to investigate how this
    technology I've been developing all my life is going to benefit society.
    Otherwise, why are we designing all these artifacts if they're not going
    to help people?"


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