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Press Release

Contact: Anne Watzman
412-268-3830

For immediate release:
May 9, 2002

Carnegie Mellon Computing Expert Manuel Blum Is Elected to the National Academy of Sciences

PITTSBURGH—Manuel Blum, Carnegie Mellon University's Bruce Nelson Professor of Computer Science, and a leader in the world of theoretical computing, has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, one of the highest honors that can be accorded to a U.S. scientist or engineer.

Blum is one of the founders of computational complexity theory, work that has also had applications to cryptography and program checking. He came to Carnegie Mellon as a visiting professor in 1999 after a distinguished career at the University of California at Berkeley where he received an A.M. Turing Award, the highest honor in computing, in 1995. He received Carnegie Mellon's Nelson Chair in the fall of 2001.

Starting from his early research on the inherent limitations of computing devices, Blum's work has developed around a single unifying theme—finding positive, practical consequences of living in a world where all computational resources are bounded. He showed that secure business transactions and pseudo-random number generation are possible because all computational devices have finite resources.

Today he is working on CAPTCHA (the Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart) which is used by Yahoo to ensure that registrants to Web sites are humans and not robots.

"Manuel Blum's move to Carnegie Mellon caps a 20-year recruiting effort on the part of the School of Computer Science," said Carnegie Mellon President Jared Cohon. "In addition to being one of the great creative scentists in theoretical computing, Manuel is a morale booster, a recruiting draw, and one of the great mentors in the field of computer science."

"Manuel has been a creative force in computer science for many years and he continues to enliven our intellectual environment," added James Morris, dean of the School of Computer Science. "He has advised more than 29 students and, with his encouragement, many of them have gone out and created new areas in computer science."

Blum attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he received his bachelor's, and master's degrees in electrical engineering in 1959 and '61, and a doctor's degree in mathematics in 1964.

He and his wife, Distinguished Career Professor of Computer Science Lenore Blum, had ties to Carnegie Mellon as far back as the late 1950s when Lenore pursued undergraduate studies in architecture at what was then Carnegie Institute of Technology. They also have been drawn to the university through their son Avrim, an associate professor of computer science, who has been on the theory faculty since 1991.

"It was a combination of the opportunity to be at the greatest Computer Science Department in the country, SCS Dean Jim Morris' friendly wooing and the chance to be closer to Avrim and his family, including grandchildren Alex and Aaron, that brought us to Pittsburgh," Blum said.

By last fall, all of the Blums were pooling their expertise in theoretical computer science with several theory group colleagues, including professors Guy Blelloch, Daniel Sleator and Associate Professor Ramamoorthi Ravi, to win a $5.6 million Information Technology Research (ITR) grant from the National Science Foundation. The funds are helping to support the Center for ALgorithm ADaption, Dissemination and INtegration, better known as the Aladdin Project. The goal is to get algorithms into the hands of potential users in a more timely fashion.

Blum is one of 72 new members of the National Academy of Sciences chosen this year in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievement in original research. His election to the Academy brings the number of Carnegie Mellon members to seven. The others include John R. Anderson, Stephen E Fienberg, James McClelland, Dana Scott, Robert Griffiths and Lincoln Wolfenstein.

The National Academy of Sciences was founded in 1863 to advice the government on the scientific issues that frequently pervade policy decisions. The Academy and its sister organizations — the National Academy of Engineering, the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council work outside the framework of government to ensure independent advice on matters of science, technology and medicine. Their service to government has become so essential that Congress and the White House have issued legislation and executive orders over the years that reaffirm its unique role.

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