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Published July 19, 2023
The University of Wyoming’s School of Computing has taken a major step toward its goal of creating a statewide, national and global impact with the hiring of tenure-track faculty members in applied artificial intelligence/machine learning and big data.
The School of Computing aims to provide Wyoming and the world with agile and ethical computing professionals, empowered to address societal challenges that are inherently interdisciplinary. The new faculty members showcase the breadth of computing envisioned by the school -- and the interdisciplinary nature of the field of computing -- as all have joint positions with other academic units.
“We are delighted to welcome these talented individuals to our team,” says Gabrielle Allen, director of the School of Computing. “Their diverse backgrounds and expertise will strengthen our interdisciplinary approach to applied artificial intelligence/machine learning and big data research, creating opportunities for innovation, addressing complex challenges and advancing curricular offerings in the School of Computing and across campus.”
This year’s new faculty members are:
-- Ellen Aikens, a wildlife ecologist whose research is rooted in applied data science, uses big data techniques to address critical conservation and management issues. She joins UW as an assistant professor, joint with the Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources, and with an adjunct position in the Department of Zoology and Physiology.
She earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Ursinus College and a Ph.D. in ecology from UW. She gained international experience through a postdoctoral position at the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior in Germany before her most recent role as an assistant unit leader for the South Dakota U.S. Geological Survey cooperative unit.
Aikens will conduct research at the UW-National Park Service Research Station at the AMK Ranch in Grand Teton National Park, where she will study the full lifetime of ravens, which are well known for their intelligence and problem-solving abilities. For this, her group will develop and apply cutting-edge methods to sensor, camera, movement and activity data.
-- Sean Field, who joins UW as an assistant professor, joint with the Department of Anthropology, and as a UW Derecho Assistant Professor, specializes in archaeological visualization. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Northern Colorado in an interdisciplinary major through the Department of Anthropology and holds an M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Notre Dame in the Department of Anthropology.
Field brings expertise in climate modeling, geospatial analysis and remote sensing. His research revolves around understanding how communities adapt to climate stress in arid environments, using LiDAR technology to visualize and compare archaeological field sites. Field will continue his research in archaeological visualization, exploring the intricate relationship between humans and their changing environments.
-- Meridith Joyce will join UW in 2024 as an assistant professor, joint with the Department of Physics and Astronomy, and adjunct in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics. She holds a B.S. in mathematics and a B.S. in physics from Bucknell University, as well as a Ph.D. in physics and astronomy from Dartmouth College.
Joyce is an expert in computational stellar astrophysics who has trained as a Lasker Data Science Prize Fellow at NASA’s Space Telescope Science Institute and is currently a Marie Sklodowska-Curie Widening Fellow at the Konkoly Observatory in Hungary. She specializes in high-performance computing and data science, with a focus on astrophysics, computer science and data science intersections. Her research at UW will center on developing a significant numerical catalog in astrophysics, using large astronomical datasets and the MESA software instrument.
-- Benjamin Koger, joining UW as an assistant professor, joint with the Department of Zoology and Physiology, and adjunct in the Haub School, is an expert in the study of collective animal behavior. He earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Princeton University and a Ph.D. in biology from the University of Konstanz.
With a strong background in computer science and ecology as a Washington Research Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Washington, Koger combines deep-learning techniques and computer vision to generate valuable insights into animal populations and behaviors. His work contributes significantly to the conservation of the natural world.
-- Stefan Rahimi, an assistant professor with a major appointment in the Department of Atmospheric Science, joint with the School of Computing, and a UW Derecho Assistant Professor, was hired through UW’s WY-ACT: Wyoming Anticipating Climate Transitions project. He is leading research on hydroclimate shifts and climate projection quality.
Rahimi earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in meteorology from the University of Oklahoma and a Ph.D. in atmospheric science from UW. As a regional modeling lead at UCLA, Rahimi has conducted research on understanding and modeling Wyoming’s unique weather patterns.
With the support of the National Science Foundation-funded WY-ACT project, Rahimi will explore the integration of artificial intelligence/machine learning methods in weather prediction and climate modeling. He will foster collaboration among the Department of Atmospheric Science, the School of Computing and other departments, driving advancements at the intersection of artificial intelligence/machine learning and atmospheric science.
-- Dane Taylor joins UW as an assistant professor, joint with the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, and adjunct in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from the State University of New York-Buffalo. He completed his undergraduate education at UW with bachelor’s degrees in physics and electrical engineering, and he completed his M.S. and Ph.D. in applied mathematics at the University of Colorado-Boulder.
Taylor specializes in the study of complex systems using mathematical models. His expertise is in developing algorithms and computational techniques to analyze various types of data, such as networks and interconnected information. His research centers on unraveling the patterns and connections within large datasets to understand the behavior and interactions of complex systems, including neural networks and self-organizing networks. Taylor will facilitate collaboration with colleagues from different disciplines, offering new insights into the behavior and applications of complex systems.
With the exception of Joyce, the new faculty members will begin their work on the UW campus this fall. They will play a crucial role in leading research efforts that directly relate to Wyoming’s computing and technology needs. They also will advance the application of artificial intelligence/machine learning and big data in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, specifically tailored to the state’s research interests and needs.