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UT iSchool Welcomes New Faculty Member Byron Wallace

The UT iSchool is pleased to welcome Byron Wallace, who will be joining us this fall as an assistant professor. His research interests are in data mining/machine learning and natural language processing, with an emphasis on applications in health. Byron is presently a research assistant professor at Brown University, where he is based in the Department of Health Services, Policy & Practice and is also affiliated with the Brown Laboratory for Linguistic and Information Processing (BLLIP) in computer science. He received his PhD in computer science in 2012 from Tufts University, under the supervision of Carla Brodley.

We had an opportunity to ask Byron a few questions to learn more about his background, what he plans to teach, and to talk a little about his interest in being part of the iSchool community.

Can you describe briefly some specific reasons you were interested in coming to UT Austin and the School of Information? Where do you see yourself within the inter/trans disciplinary landscape and why is being in that kind of research environment appealing to you?

In a word: interdisciplinarity. While my training is in computer science and my methodological interests are in CS, I have always sought out opportunities for interdisciplinary research. For example, much of my previous work has involved developing, applying and evaluating innovative data mining methods to help health sciences researchers make sense of the massive amount of information that is now available. We need intelligent, automated approaches if we are to leverage this data to ultimately improve patient care: this is an inherently interdisciplinary endeavor and aligns with the School of Information's aim of making sure information benefits people.

What kinds of courses do you plan on teaching?

I'll be teaching an "Applied Data Mining" course in fall 2014, which will introduce the technologies underpinning modern data mining. I also hope to teach a version of the Health Informatics course currently offered. Tanya Clement and I are conspiring to teach a class that introduces natural language processing methods and what they can do for the humanities by way of David Foster Wallace's "Infinite Jest".

What are some doctoral student interests/backgrounds that would align most favorably to yours?

Interests in either health informatics and/or "data science" (broadly construed), including natural language processing, would probably make for the best fit. Ideally, a student would have some knowledge of computer science methods but would have specific interest in conducting interdisciplinary research.

Are there any interests, hobbies, activities outside of your research/academic work that you'd like to share?

I'm a consistent, if casual, runner; I enjoy craft beer and coffee; I am the cofounder and former de facto benevolent dictator of an existentialist book club in Boston.