Wendy Lehnert retires

Professor Emeritus Wendy Lehnert retired in September 2011 after a twenty-nine year career as faculty in the UMass Amherst Department of Computer Science.

"I've known Wendy since my days at MIT and hers at Yale. We collaborated on many projects at UMass Amherst, having received one of the department's first DARPA awards to research a system that combined natural language processing (NLP) and case based reasoning (CBR) in an advisory system, followed by other DARPA CBR/Machine Learning (ML) initiatives. We used these ideas in the context of information retrieval as co-PI's with Bruce Croft on the NSF Center for Intelligent Information Retrieval grant," says Professor Edwina Rissland. "Wendy has been one of the most creative researchers in AI and also a wizard-class programmer. She was at the forefront of using ML in NLP. Of her many contributions, one of my favorites is her beautiful work on 'Plot Units.' Long recognized as a leader in AI, she was one of the founding AAAI Fellows."

Lehnert received her B.A. in Mathematics from Portland State University in 1972 and an M.A. in Mathematics from Yeshiva University in 1974. She received her Ph.D. in Computer Science from Yale University in 1977 for her work on a computational model of human question answering. She subsequently joined the faculty at Yale where she held a joint appointment in Computer Science and Psychology. During 1981-82, Lehnert held the position of Vice President for Research at Cognitive Systems, Inc., where she designed commercial natural language processing systems and developed applications for the existing technology.

In 1982, Lehnert joined the tenure-track faculty in the Department of Computer Science at UMass Amherst where she specialized in natural language processing and cognitive models of human thought processes. In the 1990's, Lehnert was a pioneer in the area of information extraction from text and natural language processing performance evaluations. In recent years, Lehnert taught web-related courses and authored a number of books on the topic, including Light on the Web and Web 101.

In 1984, Lehnert received the Presidential Young Investigator Award from the National Science Foundation in recognition for her work in artificial intelligence, and in 1991 she was elected Fellow of the American Association for Artificial Intelligence. In 1996, she was honored as a UMass Amherst Distinguished Faculty Lecturer. She has served on scientific advisory boards for the National Science Foundation, the National Library of Medicine, and has served as a member of the Information Science and Technology Committee for the Advanced Research Projects Agency of the Department of Defense. Lehnert was elected to the Board of Counselors for the American Association for Artificial Intelligence, as well as the Governing Board for the Cognitive Science Society, and she has also served as a senior editor for Cognitive Science. She has published nine books and over 100 journal articles, conference papers and book chapters.

In addition to her CS research, Lehnert has been investigating traditional Chinese medicine as a model of memory-intensive reasoning and problem solving. She is licensed to practice acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine in the state of Massachusetts.