Carnegie Mellon University

Tom Mitchell

October 02, 2018

Mitchell Named CMU’s Interim Dean of School of Computer Science

AI and machine learning pioneer to lead nation’s top-ranked program

By Byron Spice

Byron Spice
  • School of Computer Science
  • 412-268-9068

Carnegie Mellon University has named Tom Mitchell, the E. Fredkin University Professor of Machine Learning and Computer Science, interim dean of the School of Computer Science.

Mitchell is a pioneer in the field of machine learning, a burgeoning branch of artificial intelligence that develops systems capable of learning from data, identifying patterns and making decisions. In 1997, he co-founded the Center for Automated Learning and Discovery, which became the world’s first Machine Learning Department in 2006 and offered the first Ph.D. program in machine learning. He led the department until 2016.

“As a leading scholar in machine learning and artificial intelligence, Tom Mitchell has been one of the School of Computer Science’s most extraordinary founders and pioneers for the past several decades,” said Carnegie Mellon University President Farnam Jahanian. “He has the profound respect of the entire Carnegie Mellon community and a record of leadership that will make him an excellent interim dean. I am grateful for his willingness to serve the school and the university at this important time.”

Mitchell’s work has helped to establish Carnegie Mellon’s leadership in artificial intelligence research and education. This fall SCS became the first U.S. university to offer an undergraduate degree in AI. Last year, the university launched its CMU AI initiative to further boost its research efforts and unite AI researchers across the campus.

“I have spent 30 years of my career at Carnegie Mellon because there is no better place for generating and exploring new ideas, and for educating the next generation of leaders in computer science and artificial intelligence,” Mitchell said. “I look forward as interim dean to working with our faculty, staff, and students to move us even further forward, while the university selects our next long-term dean."

As interim dean, Mitchell will oversee a school that was named this year as the nation’s top graduate school of computer science for artificial intelligence by U.S. News and World Report, which once again ranked SCS No. 1 overall, tied with three other computer science schools. Women have reached parity with men in the last three incoming classes of undergraduates, even as the size of first-year classes has increased from 139 in 2014 to a record 211 this year. New K-12 outreach programs are underway, designed to increase the number of underrepresented minorities studying computer science nationwide.

Mitchell’s research has included the development of statistical learning algorithms and their applications to problems, such as giving computers the ability to understand natural language as well as discovering how the human brain represents information.

Mitchell and colleagues in CMU’s Psychology Department produced the first computational model to predict brain activation patterns associated with nouns, work that has since been extended to other word types, word sequences and emotions. His Never Ending Language Learner is a computer program that searches through web pages 24/7 as it teaches itself to read. His projects have been featured on CBS’s “60 Minutes,” PBS’s “NOVA Science NOW” and Werner Herzog’s 2016 feature documentary, “Lo and Behold.”

More recently, Mitchell has explored how machine learning, and information technology in general, will affect jobs. He co-chaired a study by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine that produced a 2017 report on technology and the U.S. workforce.

Mitchell earned his undergraduate degree in electrical engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his Ph.D. in electrical engineering with a minor in computer science at Stanford University. He joined Carnegie Mellon in 1986. He has published and lectured extensively, including at the World Economic Forum’s prestigious Davos conference.

The university named him the E. Fredkin Professor of AI and Machine Learning in 1999 and a University Professor, CMU’s highest faculty distinction, in 2009. A former president of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI), he is a fellow of both the AAAI and the American Association for the Advancement of Science and winner of the 2007 AAAI Distinguished Service Award. He was elected in 2010 to the U.S. National Academy of Engineering, and in 2016 to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Mitchell will take the place of Andrew Moore, who is stepping down in November at the end of his term as SCS dean to head Google’s Cloud AI efforts. Carnegie Mellon will conduct a national search for a successor.