2017 Withrow Distinguished Scholar—Senior Award


March 17, 2017

Eleven receive top honors during 27th Annual Engineering Awards Luncheon 

It was a celebration of teaching, scholarship, and service when members of the Michigan State University College of Engineering convened in the University Club on Thursday, March 16, at the 27th Annual Engineering Awards Luncheon. 

Leo Kempel, dean of the College of Engineering, greeted award winners and about 100 guests from the college during the annual spring ceremony.Eleven from the college received top honors March 16. Awards were presented (l to r), top row: Bradley Marks, Nathan Mellott, Anthony Ingle; middle row: Joshua Nahum, Ramakrishna Mukkamala, Peter Lillehoj, Geoffrey Recktenwald; front row: Kyle Foster, Jennifer Keddle, Gilbert Baladi, and Joyce Chai.

The Withrow Endowed Teacher/Scholar/Service Award Program was established by the Withrow family to recognize faculty of the MSU College of Engineering who have demonstrated excellence in instructional and scholarly activities and rendered distinguished service to the university and the student body. Jack Withrow earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from MSU in 1954 and an MBA in 1971. He retired as executive vice president at Chrysler Corp. in 1988, and then served as president and chief operating officer at Lectron Products Inc., from 1989 to 1995. He received the MSU Distinguished Alumni Award in 1984. Dottie Withrow earned a bachelor’s degree in speech therapy and elementary education from MSU in 1955 and a master’s degree in teaching from Oakland University. She was a special education teacher in West Bloomfield Schools for many years and published a children’s book that promotes responsible pet care and a second book that teaches children about opera.

Distinguished Scholar—Senior Award: Joyce Chai
(Nominees have been in service to the university for more than five years and hold the rank of professor.)

Joyce Chai, a professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, is an eminent computer scientist and superb scholar who has made important contributions to the field of language processing. Her work lies in the intersection of natural language processing, artificial intelligence, and human machine communication, and she has established herself as a leading researcher in the field.

She joined MSU in January 2003, after having been a researcher for the IBM T. J. Watson Research Center, in Hawthorne, N.Y. Since she has been at MSU, her research has been primarily in the area of multi-modal interfaces that integrate speech, gaze, gesture, and other forms of user input - combining the best aspects of traditional graphical user interfaces with more advanced natural-language interfaces using speech input.

She is a prolific researcher and has published more than 80 papers with her students. Most of these papers were selected by rigorous review processes and appeared in highly selective, top-tier conferences in natural language processing (NLP) and artificial intelligence (AI). She received the Best Long Paper Award at the 48th Annual Meeting for Association of Computational Linguistics, the top conference in NLP.

Chai has a prolific record in obtaining research grants from federal agencies (NSF, ONR, DARPA, etc.). She received a NSF CAREER Award in 2004 - on her first attempt upon arrival at MSU. Since then, she has been awarded $4.5 million federal funding as principle investigator. Many of her grants have been awarded by exceptionally competitive programs (such as the National Robotics Initiative with a funding rate of less than 5 percent).

The visibility and reputation of her work is also demonstrated by her participation in a high number of invited talks in the research community. She has been an invited speaker at workshops, and at universities and research labs. She delivered a keynote speech at the Karles Invitational Conference at Naval Research Lab, which convened the most prominent researchers in AI, computer vision, and cognitive science. She has been invited to participate in the Ernst Strüngmann Forum at the Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies in May 2017. The forum is known for providing “a creative environment within which top international scientists discuss themes that transcend classic disciplinary boundaries.” 

Dean Leo Kempel and Abdol-Hossein Esfahanian of computer science and engineering present the Distinguished Scholar - Senior Award to Joyce Chai for her eminent scholarship in computer science.

Computer Science and Engineering