A UNT professor is among the 100 university researchers nationwide to earn recognition from the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers, the highest honor a beginning scientist or engineer can receive in the United States.
Rada Mihalcea, associate professor of computer science and engineering, was honored by the White House for her groundbreaking research on understanding the meaning of text, a critical capability for many important natural language and information processing applications, and for her exemplary commitments to education and community service.
Mihalcea is the only professor at any Dallas/Fort Worth university to earn the recognition.
The Presidential Award program recognizes outstanding scientists and engineers who, early in their careers, show exceptional potential for leadership at the frontiers of science and technology. The recipients will receive their awards in the fall at a White House ceremony.
"I'm excited and honored about this award," Mihalcea says. "Thinking back to where I started, it makes me feel that everything is possible."
Mihalcea was recommended for the award by the National Science Foundation, which awarded her a CAREER award in 2008. The CAREER award program, the most prestigious offered by the NSF for young investigators, supports early career development activities of teacher-scholars who effectively integrate research and education within the context of the mission of their organization. UNT has had four other CAREER award winners: Mohammed Omary, associate professor of chemistry; Pam Padilla, associate professor of biology; Srinivasan Srivilliputhur, professor of materials science and engineering; and Angela Wilson, professor of chemistry.
Mihalcea's research focuses on the semantic interpretation of text for language-processing applications. Rather than using just one resource to model the meanings of words, Mihalcea finds ways to combine several different monolingual and multilingual lexical resources, covering a large number of languages, to create rich, flexible word meaning representations that can be adapted to specific language-processing applications.
Mihalcea plans to explore the use of these representations in a number of applications, including automatic word and text translation, and text-to-text similarity. She also plans to integrate these models into educational applications, which can be used to build a tool to assist Spanish-speaking students comprehend English texts by providing simpler English synonyms or translations into Spanish.
The Presidential awards were established by President Clinton in 1996 and are coordinated by the Office of Science and Technology Policy at the White House. Nine federal agencies, including the NSF, Department of Defense and Department of Energy, recommend recipients to the White House.
Sarah Bahari with UNT News Service can be reached at Sarah.firstname.lastname@example.org.