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ACM Council on Women Names Athena Lecturer for Innovations in Information Retrieval

Susan Dumais Changed the Way People Search for Information

ACM Council on Women Names Athena Lecturer for Innovations in Information Retrieval

Susan Dumais

ACM's Council on Women in Computing (ACM-W) has named Susan T. Dumais of Microsoft Research as the 2014-2015 Athena Lecturer. Dumais introduced novel algorithms and interfaces for interactive retrieval that have made it easier for people to find, use and make sense of information. Her research, at the intersection of human-computer interaction and information retrieval, has broad applications for understanding and improving searching and browsing from the Internet to the desktop. The Athena Lecturer award celebrates women researchers who have made fundamental contributions to computer science. It includes a $10,000 honorarium provided by Google Inc.

"Dumais has helped us understand that the search is not the end goal," said Mary Jane Irwin, who heads the ACM-W awards committee. "Her focus is on understanding when and why people search, and presenting results in context to help integrate those results into the larger search process. Her sustained contributions have shaped the thinking and direction of human-computer interaction and information retrieval, and influenced generations of student interns through collaborative projects with academic and industry partners."

Dumais' initial research demonstrated that different people use different vocabulary to describe the same thing, and that this mismatch limits the success of traditional keyword-based information retrieval methods. To build search systems that avoided the vocabulary problem, she and her colleagues invented Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI). A key feature of LSI is its ability to extract the latent conceptual structure from a large collection of texts by analyzing the associations between terms that occur in similar contexts, thus enabling a search engine to retrieve using concepts rather than keywords. Beyond information retrieval, LSI has been used to model various aspects of human cognition such as language acquisition and textual coherence.

Dumais is Distinguished Scientist and Deputy Managing Director of the Microsoft Research Lab in Redmond, Washington. The Athena Lecturer is invited to present a lecture at an ACM event. Her lecture will be delivered at an event to be determined. Each year, the Athena Lecturer honors a preeminent woman computer scientist. Athena is the Greek goddess of wisdom; with her knowledge and sense of purpose, she epitomizes the strength, determination, and intelligence of the "Athena Lecturers." The 2014-2015 Athena Lecturer award will be presented at the ACM Annual Awards Banquet, June 21, in San Francisco, CA.

Read the ACM news release.

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