A University of Texas School of Information faculty member, known for his innovative research and passion for teaching, reached a pinnacle point in his careers recently. Assistant Professor Matt Lease was awarded tenure this winter.
Lease has conducted research in the areas of information retrieval and crowdsourcing over the past five years. Information retrieval is the science of creating new search engine technologies such as Google while crowdsourcing helps engage people online to perform productive, human computation tasks.
With regard to information retrieval, Lease’s lab seeks to advance state-of-the-art search engine technology, as well as how that quality is evaluated.
“While commercial search engine companies have given us great web search engines, it represents only the tip of the iceberg in ensuring that people have fast and easy access to the information they need, when they need it and in whatever form it arises,” Lease said. “The rise of Internet crowdsourcing is driving a renaissance in ‘human computation’ – the use of people to perform data processing tasks which remain beyond what today’s best artificial intelligence can achieve. We want to design, develop and advance the exciting technologies of tomorrow.”
One of the first orders of business Lease accomplished through receiving tenure was the promotion to Associate Professor.
“I am greatly indebted to my school and colleagues for dedicating themselves to helping me to be successful, and tenure is therefore an achievement not just of the individual but also of the department and entire faculty that made it possible,” Lease said. “Personally, it is an incredible honor and a very humbling experience to have one’s research recognized and commended by a jury of world-class scholars, welcoming you to join their ranks in embarking on a career of passion in research, teaching and continual learning. Our iSchool is truly an amazingly supportive, large and growing family that is both welcoming and inspiring.”
At UT, faculty members can be considered for tenure after they have served for at least five years as an assistant professor. In their sixth year, the university’s Promotion and Tenure Committee completes an internal review and evaluate candidates on three general criteria - research contribution, teaching and service. Committee members consider the publication record, teaching evaluations and record of contributions of the candidates. In addition to UT’s tenure committee being a part of the process, outside professors at appropriate schools review and evaluate the candidate's research record in terms of originality and productivity. The internal committee then makes a recommendation to the university’s committee, which includes the president, provost, deans of graduate and undergraduate studies and the vice president for research. This committee makes the final recommendation on each candidate.
Each year, UT reviews over 100 Assistant Professors for tenure.
“For a faculty member, tenure is a mark of recognition that they are productive contributors to the mission of the school and to the advancement of knowledge within our field,” said Andrew Dillon, Dean of UT’s School of Information.
Lease received his bachelor’s degree in computer science at the University of Washington in Seattle, followed by master’s and doctorate degrees in computer science at Brown University.
He credits his success to two mentors he met as an undergraduate student – Ira Kalet and Gaetano Borriello.
“Their examples as faculty will continue to live on in the legacy of many students, inspiring each of us to dare to tread in the footsteps of giants,” Lease said.