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Two Berkeley Faculty Members Receive Macarthur 'genius' Award


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UC Berkeley professors Maneesh Agrawala and Lin He

UC Berkeley professors Maneesh Agrawala (left) and Lin He (right) each received $500,000 grants from the MacArthur Foundation.

Credit: MacArthur Foundation

University of California, Berkeley professors Maneesh Agrawala and Lin He have been named MacArthur Fellows, which provides them with five-year, $500,000 grants to work on independent projects.

Agrawala, the recipient of ACM's 2008 SIGGRAPH Significant New Researcher Award, is currently designing new algorithms and techniques to process large amounts of information. "SIGGRAPH honored Maneesh last year for his innovative approach to visualization, computer graphics, and human-computer interaction," says ACM vice president Alain Chesnais. "His work, demonstrated over recent years at various SIGGRAPH conferences, reflects the way ACM encourages its Special Interest Groups like SIGGRAPH to raise awareness of computing and its vital role in driving innovations that enrich our lives and advance society."

Agrawala says he uses art as a model for data processing. "People often create images, illustrations, and photographs to convey an idea of information to other people," he says. "In this process, they ideally highlight things that are important and de-emphasize the things that are not. In my lab, we are developing algorithms that automatically focus on the key information people need to understand the message being conveyed."

While working as a doctoral student in computer science at Stanford, Agrawala designed a map generator called LineDrive. The program creates simple maps that emphasize the route itself, omitting details normally included in automatic directions such as the names of unrelated cities, roads, and parks. Agrawala also has designed algorithms that produce detailed instructions for projects that range from setting up software to constructing furniture or an airplane engine. Other projects include a video puppetry program for users with little animation experience and a photograph editing program.

View a video of Maneesh Agrawala explaining his computer vision technology research.

He, an assistant professor of molecular and cell biology, has helped demonstrate the role of microRNA in the development of cancer. The fellowship is "a great honor" and "tremendously helpful for a young person like me who has high-risk ideas, but not the money to do the research. This will allow us to be very exploratory without having to worry about financial resources."

From UC Berkeley News
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