Faculty Recruiting Support CICS

OAA 2015 Award Recipient Biographies

Kevin D. Ashley - Outstanding Achievement in Education  

For seminal work in computationally modeling argumentation, legal and ethical reasoning, and in designing instructional systems in case-based domains

Dr. Kevin Ashley holds interdisciplinary appointments as a faculty member of the Graduate Program in Intelligent Systems, a Senior Scientist at the Learning Research and Development Center, a Professor of Law, and Adjunct Professor of Computer Science all at the University of Pittsburgh, where he was also a Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney Faculty Scholar. He has held visiting appointments at such places as the University of Bologna Institute for Advanced Studies and the Law Department of the European University Institute in Firenze.   Dr. Ashley received a National Science Foundation Presidential Young Investigator Award, and in 2002 he was selected as a Fellow of the American Association of Artificial Intelligence. 

Dr. Ashley's graduate work at the University of Massachusetts focused on the HYPO system, an AI methodology to model reasoning with cases and hypotheticals in law. The ideas and methods of this seminal work still form the foundation for current systems in law, ethics, argumentation and education. Currently Dr. Ashley continues to contribute to Artificial Intelligence research on case-based and analogical reasoning, argumentation, and explanation. Much of his work, moreover, focuses on instructional goals.   He and his students develop instructional and information retrieval systems for professionals in case-based domains such as law and ethics. Currently, they are pursuing research projects in automatically classifying statutory and legal case texts, modeling the uses of values in case-based legal reasoning, and teaching students to plan written arguments with argument-diagramming and computer-supported peer review.

Dr. Ashley received a B.A. in philosophy (magna cum laude) from Princeton in 1973 and a J.D. (cum laude) from Harvard Law School in 1976. In 1988 Dr. Ashley received his Ph.D. in computer science from the University of Massachusetts where he held an IBM Graduate Research Fellowship.  His dissertation was supervised by Prof. Edwina Rissland.



Eric W. Brown- Outstanding Achievement in Technology Development

For work on the development and management of open domain question answering technology and its application within the IBM Watson system and beyond

Dr. Eric Brown is the Director of Watson Algorithms for IBM Watson Group Innovations.  Dr. Brown has been a member of IBM's research staff since 1995, during which time he worked in the broader area of information retrieval, exploring a variety of issues, including scalability, parallel and distributed information retrieval, automatic text categorization, question answering, text analysis in the bio-medical domain, and applications of speech recognition in knowledge management. 

During his time at IBM Research Dr. Brown was also deeply involved in the creation of IBM's acclaimed Watson system, the computer system that was victorious in a nationally televised Jeopardy! exhibition match in 2011 against Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, the two all-time best human players.  Indeed, for a time he served as Director of Watson Technologies. Buoyed by Watson's notable success in the Jeopardy! exhibition, IBM has now made a major corporate commitment to identifying a broad range of areas in which the technology behind Watson might be applied. Some of these applications promise to make transformative changes across many areas of our society.   As Director of Watson Algorithms, Dr. Brown is at the forefront of that work.  Specifically, he oversees work on the DeepQA project, which involves advancing the state-of-the-art in automatic, open domain question answering beyond Jeopardy! and into applications as varied as interactive healthcare support, personalized shopping assistance, and customer support for banking and education.

Dr. Brown received his B.S. in Computer Science, Summa Cum Laude, from the University of Vermont in 1989 where he attempted just about every intramural sport available. He received an M.S. in 1992, and a Ph.D. (under the supervision of Prof. Bruce Croft) in 1996, both in Computer Science from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.



Jan Cuny - Outstanding Contributions to Society

For outstanding accomplishment in expanding the participation of underrepresented groups, most notably women, in Computer Science

Dr. Janice Cuny is a Program Director at the National Science Foundation, where she heads the  NSF Broadening Participation in Computing Initiative and the CS 10K Project to produce 10,000 Computer Science teachers in 10,000 schools by 2020. Before coming to NSF in 2004, she had been a faculty member in Computer Science Departments at Purdue University, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and the University of Oregon.

Dr. Cuny has for decades been a key national leader in efforts to increase the participation of women in computing research. She was a long time member of the Computing Research Association's Committee on the Status of Women (CRA-W), and served as the CRA-W co-chair. Dr. Cuny served as a mentor in the CRA-W Distributed Mentoring Program, advising and encouraging young women seeking careers in academic Computer Science.  She was a lead on the CRA-W Academic Career Mentoring Workshop, and the Grad Cohort and Cohort for Associated Professors projects that create support groups by building communities of young female Computer Science researchers at comparable stages of their careers.  Dr. Cuny was also a member of the Advisory Board for Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology, the Leadership team of the National Center for Women in Technology, and the Executive Committee of the Coalition to Diversify Computing. She has held key leadership positions in the Grace Hopper Conference, the largest and most wide-ranging meeting of young female computer scientists in the world, serving as Program Chair in 2004 and General Chair in 2006.

For her efforts with underserved populations, she received a 2006 ACM President's Award, the 2007 CRA A. Nico Habermann Award, and the 2009 Anita Borg Institute's Woman of Vision Award for Social Impact.

Dr. Cuny is a mother, a grandmother and a court appointed advocate for children in the foster care system. She is an "alum" of the UMass Computer Science Department faculty, holding a professorial appointment from 1984-1995.



Peter F. DiGiammarino - Outstanding Achievement in Management

For extraordinary management and leadership skills, demonstrated through corporate success and promulgated through teaching and mentoring

Peter DiGiammarino is currently Chairman of Compusearch and advises a dozen other organizations as CEO of IntelliVen, LLC, a San Francisco-based company he founded to help owners,  CEO's, and investors in early-stage organizations. Following a 20-year career at American Management Systems, which he helped grow from a start-up to a 10,000-person firm, DiGiammarino has served as president, CEO, or chairman of several companies, including Hyperion Solutions, Touchstone Consulting, and Aquilent.

As his many successes attest, Mr. DiGiammarino has a talent for helping individuals, teams and organizations perform better and more effectively and to achieve their growth and profitability goals. He has used that talent to help organizations grow, and to teach others about how to do the same.  Based upon his many successful experiences he has created leadership models that emphasize that a leader teaches, assertively listens to input, is able to multi-task, stays calm under pressure, inspires ideas, and empowers others. 

Determined to share his insights with students, especially students here at UMass, Mr. DiGiammarino has brought his ideas to the UMass campus.  As a notable example, he was the Eleanor Bateman Alumni Scholar in Residence at Commonwealth College for spring semester 2012, during which he presented a very well-received featured lecture offering his views on becoming an effective leader.  This led directly to a Masters degree course in organization analysis and strategy that he teaches at University of San Francisco and to an accompanying workbook. In addition, he currently serves as a founding member of the UMass Commonwealth Honors College Advisory Board.

Mr. DiGiammarino earned an MBA with a concentration in strategy, information technology, and organization development from MIT's Sloan School of Management in 1977.  Prior to that, he attended UMass Amherst, graduating in 1975 with a Bachelor's Degree in Individual Concentration (BDIC) combining computer science, economics, and mathematics.



Lixin Gao - Outstanding Achievement in Research

For fundamental and outstanding contributions to network protocols and internet routing

Lixin Gao is a Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Massachusetts - Amherst.

Prof. Gao performs research in the areas of multimedia networking, Internet routing, and distributed computing.  Among her many pioneering ideas and insights, she was the first to recognize that economic relationships among key Internet entities, such as ISPs and content providers, have a profound influence on the topology of the Internet and the behavior of the underlying protocols. In other work, she proposed and analyzed guidelines for routing domains to select local policies in an effort to ensure that routing systems converge to a unique and stable solution. She was also a pioneer in the development and analysis of network multimedia resource allocation algorithms.  More recently, she developed distributed frameworks for iterative computation on massive datasets.

Professor Gao is a Fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE).  She has received numerous awards and recognitions, including an Alfred P Sloan Fellowship (2003), a 2011 ACM SIGMETRICS Test of Time Award given to a paper that is acknowledged to have been of great value over an extended period of time, the 2010 INFOCOM  Best Paper Award, and a Paper of Distinction Award in ACM Cloud Computing in 2011.  She also received an NSF Career Award (1999), the UMass Amherst Chancellor's Award for Outstanding Accomplishments in Research and Creative Activity (2010), and a College of Engineering Outstanding Senior Faculty Award (2013).

Prof. Gao received a B.S. in Computer Science from University of Science and Technology of China, Anhui, China in 1985.  She received a Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 1996.  Her dissertation was supervised by Profs. Arnold Rosenberg and Ramesh Sitaraman.



Ziv Gillat - Outstanding Achievment in Entrepreneurship

For excellence in entrepreneurship, leading the technical and business development of award-winning consumer products, and mentoring young entrepreneurs

Ziv Gillat is the Co-founder and Evangelist at Eye-Fi, Inc., where he is in charge of business development.  Eye-Fi produces SD memory cards and SDHC cards with built-in Wi-Fi capabilities. Using an Eye-Fi card inside a digital camera, the user can wirelessly and automatically upload digital photos to a local computer, a mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet, or directly to websites like Facebook and YouTube. The Eye-Fi card has been recognized with a variety of awards, including a citation in PC World's 25 Most Innovative Products, a Best of Show Award from MacWorld, and Popular Science's Best of What's New. Time Magazine recently reviewed Eye-Fi, and called the company's products "indispensable".

 Prior to co-founding Eye-Fi, Inc., Mr. Gillat held software engineering positions at a variety of companies including Apple Computer, General Magic, and Silverback Systems. He has extensive experience in software design in areas including digital imaging, color management, printing technologies, storage and high-speed networking--and he is also a professional photographer who shoots on-location and in the studio. Food is another of Mr. Gillat's interests that he combines with technology.  Indeed he is the co-founder and co-CEO of Forq, an app that makes it easy for foodies to share their recipes with other foodies.

 Mr. Gillat is also an active mentor of entrepreneurs and startup founders, providing guidance and encouragement through his participation at both 500 Startups and The Founder Institute. Marcos Polanco, Founder Institute Director, says, "When it comes to technology entrepreneurship and giving back, Ziv is the real deal."

Ziv Gillat graduated from UMass Amherst with a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science in May 1995 with a minor in Mathematics.



Meck Khalfan - Outstanding Achievement by a Young Alum

For outstanding entrepreneurial success and admirable service to society, achieved at a remarkably young age

Meck Khalfan is the CEO and Co-founder of Puku LLC, a New York-based company that is revolutionizing the mobile charging industry with high quality and beautifully designed portable chargers.

Tanzanian-born, Mr. Khalfan entered a high school for top-performing boys in Arusha, Tanzania. His outstanding performance there qualified him for an exchange program that brought him to Connecticut in 1998. Upon his return from Connecticut he entered the University of Dar Es Salaam.  But, seeking a better university education, he then applied to, and was accepted by, UMass Amherst, where he studied Computer Science and Mathematics.

After graduation Mr. Khalfan worked as a software engineer in Massachusetts, and then moved to New York City.  In New York he and his family lived through the hardships of Hurricane Sandy, having to frequently walk up and down 11 flights of stairs to recharge the family's cellphones.  This suggested the need for a charger that could truly be relied upon. It resulted in Mr. Khalfan founding Puku LLC, and developing the Puku charger, now widely available, for example through Amazon.com.  Unlike most other chargers, Puku is designed to make a fashion statement, sporting esthetically appealing lines and vivid colors.

Mr. Khalfan is a passionate supporter of minority causes such as the Touch Foundation and Sponsorship for Education Opportunity (SEO). The Touch Foundation brings vital healthcare services to patients with medical needs, especially in Mr. Khalfan's native country, Tanzania. SEO provides superior education and career programs to young people from underserved communities to maximize their opportunities for college and career success.

Mr. Khalfan was named 2013 African Business Leader of The Year by the Corporate Council on Africa, 2014 New York Techno Innovator of the Year by United Color of Fashion, and 2014 Entrepreneur of the year by Applause Magazine.

Mr. Khalfan is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts Amherst with a BSc in Computer Science and Mathematics.