Juan E. Gilbert, The Banks Family Preeminence Endowed Chair and current associate chair for research, has been named chair of the University of Florida Department of Computer & Information Science & Engineering. The appointment is effective immediately.
Gilbert has been awarded over $25 million in external research funding, mentored 70 graduate students and received the prestigious AAAS Mentor Award. He is also a recipient of the 2011 Presidential Award for STEM mentoring.
“Computer science and engineering as a discipline has seen an unprecedented growth in the last few years,” UF Provost Joe Glover said. “It is important to all aspects of our lives, from national defense to economic development to improving health care. This is why this field has been made such an important part of UF’s Preeminence Initiative. Juan is an excellent researcher in the field of human-centered computing, and he has a strong track record of innovation.”
Gilbert was recruited last year from Clemson University, where he held a Presidential Endowed Chair in Computing and served as chair of the division of human-centered computing. He was one of the first hires under UF’s preeminence plan, and Gilbert gained national recognition when the electronic voting interface he created became the new standard for universal accessibility in elections after successful application in New Hampshire, Wisconsin and Oregon.
Known as Prime III, it allowed people with disabilities to cast their votes on the same system as everyone else. It took Gilbert and his team 10 years to create and perfect Prime III, after which he gave it away for free, believing that inclusion, empowerment and equality is the only way a society can move forward.
Gilbert has a bachelor’s degree in applied science from Miami University of Ohio, a master’s degree in computer science from the University of Cincinnati and a doctorate in computer science, also from the University of Cincinnati.
UF’s computer science department has hired 10 faculty in the past two years and will add at least two more in the near future. The program has shown steady advancement in performance metrics in the last two years, with external research funding increasing from $4.3 million to $4.7 million and student enrollment in computer science and computer engineering majors from 1,365 to 1,460. Under UF’s preeminence initiative, the department has focused on fields such as human-centered computing and cybersecurity. The latter area recently earned UF the distinction of being designated a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Research.
“It is an exciting time for the college and the computer and information science and engineering department, without a doubt,” said Cammy Abernathy, dean of the College of Engineering. “Our computer-related majors can’t graduate enough students to supply the demand from employers. Virtually every sector in the country wants our graduates. They are smart, diverse and well-rounded academically.”
Because of the tremendous workforce needs in information technology, the department is partnering with key state employers such as Mindtree, Northrop Grumman and Harris Corp. in an effort to ensure that high-paying jobs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics can be filled with local talent.
Along with Gilbert, two other departmental faculty will assume leadership positions. My Thai, an expert in the design of resilient networks, will assume the role of associate chair for research, and Tamer Kahveci, whose research expertise is in bioinformatics and data science, will serve as associate chair for academic affairs. Thai received the UF Provost’s Excellence Award in 2011, the NSF CAREER Award in 2010, and the DTRA YIP Award in 2009, and Kahveci received the NSF CAREER Award in 2009.