Professor named 2018 distinguished member of Association for Computing Machinery

Jordan Ford
November 08, 2018

Vasant G. Honavar, professor and Edward Frymoyer Chair of Information Sciences and Technology, has been named a distinguished member of the Association for Computing Machinery, the world’s largest and most prestigious association of computing professionals. Honavar, who is one of 49 distinguished members named for 2018, was recognized for his outstanding scientific contributions to computing.

“Perhaps I was an accidental computer scientist,” said Honavar. “I was drawn to artificial intelligence, and hence computer science, because I was interested in understanding the brain and cognition, but felt psychology was too soft, philosophy too speculative, and experimental neuroscience beyond my ability.”

“My interest in artificial intelligence gave me a chance to study cognitive capabilities like learning, inference and decision making through the lens of computing or information processing,” he explained. “I was fortunate to be mentored by Leonard Uhr, one of the founders of artificial intelligence, and to have worked with and learned from several wonderful Ph.D. students and collaborators.”

More recently, Honavar’s research has expanded into areas such as bioinformatics, health informatics, and social informatics. He has published over 250 research articles that have made foundational contributions across multiple areas of artificial intelligence, including machine learning, knowledge representation, and causal inference. He has contributed a number of useful tools and predictive models to the fields of bioinformatics and computational biology. His research has been funded by over $40 million in grants from the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Defense.

“As advances in virtually every field of human endeavor are increasingly enabled by big data, artificial intelligence, and machine learning, computational or information processing models increasingly serve as the lingua franca of science,” Honavar added. “I am pleased to have been part of this journey.”

The ACM Distinguished Member program, initiated in 2006, recognizes members with at least 15 years of professional experience who have made significant accomplishments or achieved a significant impact on the computing field. Distinguished members work in diverse industries around the world and have made contributions in a wide range of technical areas including algorithms, artificial intelligence, computer architecture, computer science education, cybersecurity, graphics, human-computer interaction and networking.

“By honoring these individuals, we highlight the professional achievements behind the technologies that have transformed both our daily lives and society in general,” explained ACM President Cherri M. Pancake in a press release. “Each Distinguished Member has also demonstrated a commitment to being part of the professional community through his or her longstanding membership in ACM. These computing leaders really epitomize ACM’s mission of ‘advancing computing as a science and a profession.’”

Honavar is director of the Penn State Center for Big Data Analytics and Discovery Informatics, the director of the Artificial Intelligence Research Laboratory in the College of IST, and associate director of the Penn State Institute for Cyberscience, Informatics co-lead of the Penn State Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute, and co-director of an NIH-funded interdisciplinary doctoral program in Biomedical Data Sciences.

He serves on the faculties of graduate programs in informatics, computer science and engineering, bioinformatics and genomics, neuroscience, social data analytics and operations research, and the undergraduate data sciences program. He is affiliated with the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences, the Institute for Energy and Environment, and the Social Science Research Institute. In 2016, he was named the Sudha Murty Distinguished Visiting Chair of Neurocomputing and Data Science at the Indian Institute of Science.

“Both sciences and humanities, when viewed through a computational lens, are essentially about representing and manipulating descriptions of real or imagined worlds,” explained Honavar about the future of his research. “My dream is to contribute to the development of computational models of the essential elements of scientific discovery and creativity in computational terms, and to develop artificial intelligence systems that augment and extend human abilities to co-create scientific knowledge or works of art, with particular emphasis on areas where there is an opportunity for significant societal impact. Penn State offers an excellent environment with a wonderful cohort of colleagues and students to pursue such a long-term research agenda.”

Last Updated June 06, 2021