Carnegie Mellon University
November 02, 2022

Holt, Rinaldo Named Dietrich College Dean’s Chairs

By Abby Simmons

Abby Simmons

Lori Holt, a professor in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience Institute, and Alessandro Rinaldo, a professor in the Department of Statistics & Data Science, have been named inaugural recipients of the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences Dean’s Chairs. The chairs recognize senior faculty for eminence in their respective fields and support exceptional research that seeks to improve the human condition.

“Professors Holt and Rinaldo are mid-career rising stars,” said Richard Scheines, Bess Family Dean of the Dietrich College, “and I am delighted that we can recognize their accomplishments with term chairs that support their research, especially as they have both taken on leadership roles in the college. I have been very fortunate to have worked with Ale as Dietrich’s associate dean for Research — he is a creative administrator and has a great sense of humor.  We are also fortunate that Lori has agreed to co-direct the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition — a center that puts CMU together with Pitt to do world-leading research in cognitive neuroscience.”  

Interpreting the Complexity of Spoken Language

lori-holt.jpegLori Holt, Dean’s Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience

An expert in auditory cognitive neuroscience, Holt’s research focuses on the cognitive and neural systems for learning, attention, memory and perception through listening. Her team-based science integrates behavioral, neuroimaging, computational and neurosurgical methods among typical adults and children and those with communication disorders. This research has implications for critical periods in development, for developmental disabilities involving language, for research on computer understanding of speech, for language learning in adulthood, and for communication with augmented reality devices.

In 2022, Holt was named the Carnegie Mellon University co-director of the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition. Through this work with University of Pittsburgh co-director Julie Fiez, she seeks to make Pittsburgh “the world’s most exciting and neighborly playground for pioneering research and training in the neural basis of cognition.” Since 2007, Holt has co-directed the Predoctoral Training Program in Behavioral Brain Research with Fiez and has supported 50 next-generation behavioral researchers to learn to apply biomedical neuroscience techniques in their research. In addition to her appointments in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience Institute, Holt is affiliated with CMU’s Department of Modern Languages and University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Neuroscience.

A recipient of a 21st Century Scientist Award for Mind, Brain and Behavior from the James S. McDonnell Foundation, Holt’s research has been recognized by awards from her peers at the Acoustical Society of America, the American Speech, Language and Hearing Association and the National Organization for Hearing Research. The Association for Psychological Science named her a Rising Star in Psychology in 2007 and the National Academy of Sciences awarded her the Troland Research Award in 2013 for unusual achievement by an early career researcher. Most recently, she was recognized as a Fellow of the Acoustical Society of America in 2022.

Holt’s research has been supported by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the Binational Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Defense, the Swedish Tercentenary Foundation, the James S. McDonnell Foundation, among others. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1999.

Investigating Big, Complex Data Problems

alessandro-rinaldo-800x800-min.jpegAlessandro Rinaldo, Dean’s Professor of Statistics & Data Science

Rinaldo’s research interests revolve around the theoretical properties of statistical and machine learning models for high-dimensional data under various structural assumptions, such as sparsity or intrinsic low dimensionality. He has investigated a broad variety of settings under which reliable statistical inference is possible in big and complex data problems, including high-dimensional and nonparametric regression, categorical data analysis, statistical network analysis, topological and geometric data analysis, privacy, clustering and change-point detection.

In 2021, Rinaldo was named the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences’ associate dean for research. He helps faculty to navigate research compliance and corporate-sponsored research, and he also represents the college in university-level discussions of research policy and practice. Rinaldo previously served as the graduate director of the Ph.D. program in the Department of Statistics & Data Science from 2017 to 2020. 

A Fellow of the Institute of Mathematical Statistics, Rinaldo and has served on the editorial boards of several premier statistics journals, including the Annals of Statistics, the Journal of the American Statistical Association and the Electronic Journal of Statistics.

Rinaldo’s research has been founded by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Defense. He received his Ph.D. in statistics from Carnegie Mellon University in 2005.