Victor Lesser Retires

Distinguished Professor Emeritus Victor Lesser retired in September 2011 after thirty-four years of service within the Department of Computer Science at UMass Amherst. While Lesser is now officially retired, he still continues to direct the Multi-Agent Systems (MAS) Laboratory within the department.

"Victor has had an amazing research career. He is widely recognized as the founding father of multi-agent systems," notes Department Chair Lori Clarke. "Our research areas are very different, but the one time we were at the same DARPA meeting, it was clear that Victor was the rock star of the multi-agent systems community. I think everyone is in awe of the number and quality of his Ph.D. students. He has an incredible legacy."

Lesser received an A.B. in Mathematics from Cornell University in 1966, and an M.S. and Ph.D. in Computer Science from Stanford University, in 1970 and 1973, respectively.

Lesser's major research focus is on the control and organization of complex AI systems. He has pioneered work in the development of the blackboard architecture and its control structure, approximate processing for use in control and real-time AI, and a wide variety of techniques for the coordination of, and negotiation among, multiple agents.  He was the system architect for the first fully developed blackboard architecture (HEARSAY-II), when he was a research scientist at Carnegie Mellon University from 1972 through 1976. He has also made contributions in the areas of machine learning, signal understanding, diagnostics, plan recognition, and computer-supported cooperative work. He has worked in application areas such as sensor networks for vehicle tracking and weather monitoring, speech and sound understanding, information gathering on the internet, peer-to-peer information retrieval, intelligent user interfaces, distributed task allocation and scheduling, and virtual agent enterprises.

Lesser received the prestigious International Joint Conferences on Artificial Intelligence (IJCAI-09) Award for Research Excellence. He is also a Founding Fellow of AAAI and an IEEE Fellow. He was General Chair of the first International Conference on Multi-Agent Systems (ICMAS) in 1995, and Founding President of the International Foundation of Autonomous Agents and Multi-Agent Systems (IFAAMAS). In 2007, to honor his contributions to the field of multi-agent systems, IFAAMAS established the "Victor Lesser Distinguished Dissertation Award." He also received a Special Recognition Award for his foundational research in generalized coordination technologies from the Information Processing Technology Office at DARPA. 

Lesser received the UMass Amherst College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics Outstanding Teaching Award in 2004 and the Outstanding Research Award in 2008. He also received the Chancellor's Award for Outstanding Accomplishments in Research and Creative Activity in 2008.

This past spring, Lesser's former graduate students created an endowed scholarship in his honor to acknowledge his extraordinary career and the mentoring of over 30 MAS graduate students.