Carnegie Mellon University
May 04, 2023

Tarr Named University Professor

By Christa Cardone

& Kristen Bayley

Peter Kerwin
  • University Communications & Marketing
  • 412-268-1151

Michael Tarr, the Kavčić-Moura Professor of Cognitive and Brain Science, is one of five Carnegie Mellon University faculty members who have been elevated to the rank of University Professor, the highest distinction a faculty member can achieve at CMU.

Tarr also is head of the Department of Psychology, professor of psychology and the Neuroscience Institute and professor of machine learning (courtesy).

“University Professors are individuals who embody the mission of CMU through their contributions to education and research, as well as their strong commitment to the community,” said Provost and Chief Academic Officer James H. Garrett Jr. 

Colleagues named University Professors in 2023 include Burcu Akinci, Lorrie Faith Cranor, Greg Lowry and Mark Stehlik.

University Professors are distinguished by international recognition and for their contributions to education, artistic creativity and/or research. These individuals exemplify this high level of achievement and commitment to the university and the broader academic communities.

Tarr has made scientific contributions in the areas of cognitive neuroscience, cognitive science and computational and artificial vision systems, collaborating with trainees and faculty from disciplines spanning psychology, neuroscience, statistics/applied math, machine learning and robotics. Along with several colleagues and students, he articulated the image-based approach to visual object recognition which has become a standard account for how human perceivers are able to recognize objects across changes in appearance. Similarly, he and his collaborators developed the influential expertise theory of face identification, perhaps the most mechanistically grounded account for how face-selectivity arises in the human brain.

More broadly, over many decades, he has been a leader in building meaningful connections between the study of natural and artificial vision and has been at the forefront of introducing new methods in the study of vision, including the use of realistic computer graphics for stimulus creation and the collection of large-scale human neuroimaging data using natural images. He has also been a promoter of open science, including founding the still-active Object Perception, Attention and Memory conference for young investigators (now in its 4th decade) and creating and publicly sharing a wide variety of stimulus sets, code and large-scale neuroimaging data sets.

Under his administrative leadership at Carnegie Mellon, Tarr introduced a variety of university initiatives that have had wide impact on the CMU community. Most recently, he co-developed the new Dietrich Scholars program with a focus on diversity, equity and inclusion with the goal of providing greater support for diverse Ph.D. students. He was instrumental in developing and launching both the uniquely cross-college undergraduate neuroscience major and the world-class Neural Computation/Machine Learning Ph.D. program. He has also been involved in a variety of CMU initiatives across the brain and behavioral sciences. In both his science and administrative roles, Tarr has worked to cross disciplinary boundaries collaborating with colleagues and trainees throughout the university.

Read more about Akinci, Cranor, Lowry and Stehlik