August 30, 2012

Cornell Taps Two More Professors to Teach at NYC Tech Campus

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Correction appended

Cornell made national news this summer when it announced that Prof. Deborah Estrin, computer science, UCLA, was the first professor chosen by the University to join its nascent tech campus in New York City.

On Wednesday, CornellNYC Tech Dean Daniel Huttenlocher told The Sun the names of two more professors who will teach at the campus in the spring. Prof. Rajit Manohar, electrical and computer engineering, and Prof. Serge Belongie, computer science and engineering, University of California at San Diego, are going to teach at the tech campus starting in January.

Manohar will teach part-time, and Belongie will be a visiting faculty member, according to Simeon Moss ’74, deputy University spokesperson.

Belongie said that, starting in January 2013, he will be teaching “Modern Analytics” at CornellNYC Tech. His class will teach students how to mine data and turn it into usable information for companies.

Belongie said that his class arose in response to the growing number of high tech companies looking to hire data scientists. Companies with millions of subscribers collect a vast amount of data about the users of their websites, and hope to make that information useful and profitable — for example, by learning what people like and suggesting products they might be interested in. Companies with millions of subscribers collect a vast amount of data about the users of their websites and hope to make that information useful and profitable — for example, by learning what people like and suggesting products that might interest them. Belongie said that his class will teach students how to connect data to individuals so businesses can recognize users’ habits and then customize customers’ experiences. “Imagine walking into a supermarket. Right now, you walk into it and all of the aisles are arranged in a one size fits all manner — there’s clothes here, toiletries, maybe electronics in the back,” Belongie told The Sun. “Imagine you walk into the store and it is instantly rearranged, to the point where you feel like all of the stuff you are interested in is right there. It knows how tall you are and puts all the stuff at eye level that is most interesting to you.” Manohar will be teaching “Physical Computing,” a class designed to teach students how to design electronics that interact with the environment, like sophisticated home temperature control systems. As part of the course, students will design and build one such device. A professor in Cornell’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Manohar has been involved in CornellNYC Tech from the time it was just a proposal in New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s highly publicized competition. More recently, Manohar was a co-chair for the tech campus’ Academic Planning Committee, which is creating a set of requirements for the degrees that will be offered at the tech campus. Manohar said he believes that the tech campus could revolutionize the way students in science, technology and math connect their work to the world. “What students learn at Cornell, real technology and science and engineering … is something they don’t always realize how much impact they might be able to have, because they don’t see the problems people are facing,” Manohar said. “The tech campus is a place that will be able to have a much closer relationship with real issues that people are facing. It’s a much bigger opportunity to go out and do things that’ll change the world.” In contrast, Belongie, who teaches in California, is a more recent addition to the brains behind the tech campus. He is set to teach classes for one semester before returning to UC San Diego. Belongie said his interest was piqued during last year’s fierce competition between several universities to win the right to build a tech campus on Roosevelt Island. Although rumors in California suggested that Stanford, largely considered Cornell’s biggest competitor, would win the bid, Belongie said that he was intrigued by the fact that Cornell ultimately won. “I felt that had Stanford won, in some sense it would suggest that Stanford would be bringing some of the Silicon Valley-style approach to New York, because that’s where Stanford has excelled traditionally; they’re such an integral part of the culture in Silicon Valley,” Belongie said. “The idea that a different university won, one that’s actually from New York State, presents a really neat opportunity to create something brand new instead of a copy of something that exists somewhere else.”Manohar agreed that working at CornellNYC tech is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.“There may be a new university or a new campus being formed, but how often do you have a new campus of this magnitude being formed with the backing of universities like Cornell and Technion and, of course, the city?” Manohar said. Manohar plans to begin teaching in New York City during the spring semester. He said he will try to alternate semesters between the tech campus and Cornell’s campus in Ithaca.He admitted that transitioning between the two cities on a semester-long basis would be difficult. Still, Manohar said, “I think it’s worth it. It will be.”

Correction: A previous version of this story and its headline inaccurately stated that the University has hired two more professors to teach at CornellNYC Tech. In fact, Prof. Rajit Manohar, electrical and computer engineering, and Prof. Serge Belongie, computer science and engineering, will only be teaching at the campus part-time and as a visiting faculty member, respectively, in the spring. Neither has been hired to join the tech campus’ faculty.

Original Author: Emma Court

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