CSL Director Klara Nahrstedt receives College of Engineering Faculty Award
During the annual College of Engineering Faculty Awards Ceremony, CSL Director Klara Nahrstedt was honored with the Tau Beta Pi Daniel C. Drucker Eminent Faculty Award.
Called “as close to the Nobel Prize as you can get in this college” by the event’s MC and the college’s Executive Associate Dean Philippe H. Geubelle, this award is given to a faculty member who has received national or international acclaim for dedication to academic excellence through teaching and research, and who has made exemplary contributions to the understanding of their field.
“Klara’s outstanding contributions, influence, and leadership have been pivotal in shaping the future of multimedia systems,” said Nancy Amato, department head of Computer Sciences (CS). “Her ability to balance extraordinary research and outreach, coupled with an overwhelming dedication to service, sets her apart.”
Amato went on to say that during Nahrstedt’s nearly 25 years with the CS department she has become a prolific scholar, creative researcher, and a dedicated teacher, in addition to being one of the world’s leading experts in multimedia systems.
“It’s a tremendous recognition, especially when you think about how rich this college is in terms of the number of accomplished faculty the college has to choose from,” said Nahrstedt, Ralph M. and Catherine V. Fisher Professor of Computer Sciences. “I feel very honored that the college acknowledges this work that I am doing here. This is truly an award that acknowledges the whole scope of activities I do as a professor.”
Those activities include research, education, and service-oriented contributions at the campus, national, and international levels. At the campus level, she has contributed to a wide variety of interdisciplinary research projects including tele-emersion, improving computing paradigms, and collaborating on research to protect the smart grid. Nahrstedt also teaches both graduate and undergraduate students about multi-modal systems and their interaction with media, covering the principles of technologies like Skype, WebX, and Youtube.
“It’s a very demanding and unique class,” Nahrstedt said. “Over the last 20 years, a lot of students have benefitted from it as they go to industry and create new tools and systems by understanding multi-modal data and their supporting systems.”
Nahrstedt recently finished a three-year term on the National Computing Research Association Computing Community Consortium. She is a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), as well as a member of the Academy of Sciences (Leopoldina).
Internationally Nahrstedt has been even more influential. As part of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinshaft (DFG), the German equivalent of the National Science Foundation, she has worked extensively through the Excellence Initiative to review and evaluate German Universities who should receive Excellence Clusters and Excellence Universities funding. As part of this Excellence Initiative effort, she very strongly supported the idea that German universities implement the tenure system.
“In Germany you become an assistant professor, and then in order to become an associate and later on the full professor, you have to change universities,” said Nahrstedt. “With all the moving you can’t build a career and a rich research program at one university, like I did here with my multimedia systems program.”
Nahrstedt was happy to see that many of the proposals for Excellence Clusters and Excellence University status included plans to carry out a tenure system. One of the reasons Nahrstedt feels so strongly about this topic is to help promote women in STEM. In Germany, there are few women who go into computer science and engineering academia, and even fewer who move up the ranks to associate and full professor because of the stress that switching schools would put on their families.
Promoting women in STEM, particularly engineering-related fields, is also a passion for Nahrstedt at the university level. As CSL Director, she has increased the number of women-focused events for faculty, postdocs, and graduate students.
“I find it very gratifying to have provided new activities for women in CSL,” Nahrstedt said. “There is now a much larger visibility for the issues they face.”
In addition to her work with the women of CSL, there is a long list of CSL’s research accomplishments of which Nahrstedt is proud. The growth in the areas of robotics, autonomy, Internet of Battlefield Things, computational genomics, AI are at the top of the list.
“CSL is a leading organization, a productive platform for launching various programs and research activities,” Nahrstedt said. “I’m very proud of the CSL directorship. It’s an important administrative role to lead this prestigious organization.”