Two USC computer science faculty members, Yolanda Gil and Leana Golubchik, have been named 2020 Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). They are among 489 new AAAS Fellows, including 6 USC faculty members, nominated by their peers for their distinguished efforts to advance science.
Selected by the council each year, AAAS members whose “efforts on behalf of the advancement of science, or its applications, are scientifically or socially distinguished” are elected to become AAAS fellows through a judicious process.
AAAS fellows are comprised of scientists, engineers and innovators who have been honored for their achievements across various fields, including research, technology, industry and government, teaching, excellence in communication and interpreting science to the public. The newly elected AAAS fellows will be honored at the Fellows Forum in conjunction with the AAAS annual meeting in February, which will be held virtually.
Yolanda Gil is the senior director of major strategic initiatives in artificial intelligence and data science at the USC Information Sciences Institute and a research professor at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. Gil was honored with the 2020 AAAS fellow distinction for outstanding contributions to the field of artificial intelligence for supporting scientific discovery.
“I am very excited and humbled by this recognition,” she said. “I have been involved in AAAS from a research and from a policy perspective. On the research side, I have been working on AI for science for over a decade, working with scientists in different areas, especially neuroscience, genomics and climate. On the policy side, I have been involved with AAAS activities on safe and responsible use of AI and other technologies.”
A key research project Gil has been working on is automating writing scientific papers. Her team’s initial focus is automating the methods section of papers, which builds on her previous work on reproducibility and provenance. This is part of one of Gil’s long-term research directions of automating hypothesis-driven discovery, in which Gil and her team study how scientists decide what data to collect, what methods to select and how to look at the resulting evidence. “We identify the cognitive tasks involved, capture the knowledge they use so we can automate their reasoning,” she said. “This would significantly accelerate scientific advances.”
In addition to nearly 30 years of prolific work in AI, Gil has served as chair of the Special Interest Group on Artificial Intelligence at the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was president of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence. Gil is also a fellow of both organizations.
Leana Golubchik is the Stephen and Etta Varra Professor and a professor of computer science and electrical and computer engineering at USC Viterbi. She also serves as the director of USC’s Women in Science and Engineering program. Her research focuses on the design and analysis of distributed systems. In particular, she is recognized for her work on multimedia servers and content collection systems. Her research set the stage for successful online media delivery streaming services, such as Hulu and Netflix, by overcoming key challenges in scalability, reliability and quality of service.
Among other key firsts, her content collection system Bistro addressed the need for scalability, efficiency, fault tolerance and security while providing fundamental insight into the general upload problem and solutions using public hosts. These breakthroughs facilitate applications such as the online collection of income tax forms, conference papers and grant proposals. Currently, Golubchik is focusing her research efforts on distributed deep learning and privacy engineering.
“I believe that using modeling and analysis techniques that provide fundamental insight into problems leads to the design and development of better systems and technologies, which in turn improve people’s quality of life,” she said.
Golubchik has received several awards in the past, including the IBM Faculty Award, the National Science Foundation’s CAREER Award, the Okawa Foundation Award and the IBM and National Science Foundation doctoral fellowships.