USC President Carol Folt praised Bistra Dilkinaan associate professor of computer science, as a “researcher who consistently breaks new ground” at Dilkina’s installation as the inaugural holder of the Dr. Allen and Charlotte Ginsburg Early Career Chair, May 3.
The announcement comes a year after the physical groundbreaking of a new computer science building, the dr. Allen and Charlotte Ginsburg Human-Centered Computation Hall, a new home for computer and data science at USC, named in honor of its major donors. Research and education in the new building will focus on advancing the critical role of computer science in improving and benefiting society through, among others, artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotics.
President Folt congratulated Dilkina and expressed his gratitude for the generosity of the Ginsburgs. He called the event a celebration “of a young Viterbi scientist who is changing the way the world sees and uses artificial intelligence” and “a visionary couple whose philanthropy is shaping a future where computer science enables life-saving — and life-enhancing — solutions for humanity.” .”
The human factor
Folt emphasized the “human factor” in Dilkina’s work, which addresses real-world problems spanning applications in sustainability, ecology, disaster preparedness and substance abuse prevention.
In their speech, the Ginsburgs noted Dilkina’s history “of solving real, large-scale problems, especially problems that arise in areas of sustainability such as urban planning,” and referred to her as the “perfect heroic engineer.”
“At USC, early career presidential appointments are special because of what they represent—individuals who have already established themselves through their work and through their leadership, but who still have tremendous potential for even greater greatness,” said Allen. Ginsburg.
Dean Yannis Yortsos agreed, calling Dilkina “one of our most talented rising star faculties.”
“Holding such a professorship is considered an honor in academia, and the university can use them to reward its best faculty or recruit top professors from other institutions,” Yortsos says.
AI for social wellbeing
Dilkina’s work focuses on combining mathematical optimization and machine learning to choose the best option from a range of alternatives, which is crucial when solving complex problems with limited resources.
Working with the world’s leading conservation groups, Dilkina and her graduate students are developing algorithms to assist with a variety of pressing environmental needs, from designing optimal wildlife reserves to combating wildlife crime and preventing the spread of invasive species.
This includes a National Science Foundation funded project with collaborators around the world to thwart the illegal pet trade. The researchers aim to create data-rich models that identify key illegal trade routes to increase the likelihood of effective intervention.
Since 2020, Dilkina has been co-director of the Center for Artificial Intelligence in Society (CAIS)one of the first centers on AI for social wellbeing and the only academic center that is equal parts computer science and social work.
“This kind of work really requires interdisciplinary collaborations and close involvement of stakeholders and civil society organizations,” said Dilkina. “Here at USC I have found the most thriving, supportive and inspiring environment to do it.”
A dedicated mentor
In addition to her research, Dilkina is an enthusiastic mentor, conveying her passion to her students. In her undergraduate class focused on AI for sustainable development, she engages students in a deep dive into the role AI can play in energy, environment, education, and public health.
Meanwhile, her graduate students are developing advanced AI methods to solve problems that include topics such as using satellite imagery to classify land cover, helping decide where prescribed burns should be performed to minimize potential wildfires, and developing AI methods to improve Loss’ infrastructure. Angeles more resilient to natural disasters.
“It is my absolute pleasure and honor to be the inaugural recipient of the Dr. Allen and Charlotte Ginsburg Early Career Chair in Computer Science,” said Dilkina.
“Allen and Charlotte Ginsburg’s vision of human-centered computing and their appreciation of computer science as a driver for innovation and for social impact resonate so deeply with my research priorities and aspirations.”
Philanthropists with a big heart
Allen Ginsburg is a retired ophthalmologist with a focus on entrepreneurship, real estate, and philanthropy. He describes himself as a futurist deeply concerned with issues related to the planet and the universe.
Charlotte Ginsburg’s interests include performing arts, dance, theater, and costume and fashion design. The couple also supports programs that promote environmental sustainability. The ancient inhabitants of Southern California live in Palos Verdes.
A few years ago, their generosity founded USC’s Ginsburg Institute for Biomedical Therapeutics, where scientists collaborate on research into neurosensory disorders. In tribute to the Ginsburgs’ incredible dedication to USC, Folt said, “Viterbi needs philanthropists with big hearts. And we found that in Charlotte and Allen Ginsburg.”
A heroic engineer
Dilkina received her bachelor’s degree from Simon Fraser University and her master’s and doctorate degrees from Cornell University. She joined USC from the Georgia Institute of Technology in January 2018, where she served as an assistant professor, developing optimization techniques to identify cost-effective biodiversity corridors and connect isolated populations of rare, threatened and endangered species living in protected areas.
Since then, she has published numerous articles on the prediction of illegal poaching in the wild, land cover mapping, species distribution models and disaster resilience planning.
In addition to the Dr. Allen and Charlotte Ginsburg Early Career Chair, Dilkina’s research has received wide recognition, including the Okawa Foundation Research Award (2019), the UN Data for Climate Action Challenge Award in Climate Adaptation for her work on road forecasting and lighting. floods (2017), and numerous awards from KDD Applied Data Science, Raytheon and AAAI, among others.
Published on June 20, 2022
Last updated on June 20, 2022