UF CISE Receives $1 Million Gift to Fund Two Rising Star Professorships

Goldberg Professorship Recipients Arnold and Lisa Goldberg want to play their part in educating the New Engineer. They know that by investing in the University of Florida Department of Computer & Information Science & Engineering (CISE), students will have the tools, leadership skills and confidence to succeed in computer science. The Goldberg’s $1 million gift establishes the Arnold and Lisa Goldberg Rising Star Professorship in Computer Science, which funds two professorships for an appointment of five years.

“Endowed professorships carry a level of prestige that positively reflects on the department, our faculty and their research. We are thankful for the Goldberg’s support,” said Juan E. Gilbert, Ph.D., The Banks Family Preeminence Endowed Professor and department chair.

Arnold Goldberg, the vice president of Merchant Product and Technology at PayPal, holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science from UF. Goldberg joined PayPal from Box, where he spent three years as vice president of engineering. Prior to working at Box, Goldberg was vice president of platform engineering at LinkedIn. He also spent six years at eBay as senior director of systems development. At PayPal, he focuses on developing new products for consumers and merchants.

“I love the direction that Dr. Gilbert is taking the department in conjunction with all of the support that Dean Abernathy has given,” said Arnold Goldberg as he explained his vision of how the department will benefit from the professorships. “I have personally witnessed the opportunity that a degree in computer science will afford an individual. I wanted to accelerate the awareness and stature of UF’s CISE department as a preeminent destination to get that degree.”

Making the World a More Secure Place

Gilbert and Cammy R. Abernathy, Ph.D., dean of the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering, named associate professors Kevin R. B. Butler, Ph.D., and Daisy Zhe Wang, Ph.D., as holders of the professorships for their contributions to the field of computer science.

Butler, the associate director of the Florida Institute for Cybersecurity Research at UF, recently led a research team that uncovered smartphone vulnerabilities. The weakness could allow hackers to easily take control of phones and extract private information without users ever knowing. Butler’s research focuses on the security of computers, from embedded and mobile devices to cloud computing systems, and the data that they generate.

“My research objectives can be broadly characterized as assuring the trustworthiness of data,” Butler said.

As machine learning and artificial intelligence become increasingly prevalent in society, the ways machines make decisions become extremely important to understand.

“Support from this professorship will help us to examine how machine learning is being used in the context of securing systems; to determine what vulnerabilities exist in the models used for these decisions; how to explain the decision-making process; and how to make it more secure against attackers looking to exploit these systems,” Butler said.

Wang is currently collaborating with researchers at USC’s Information Systems Institute (ISI), Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Columbia University to shorten the time it takes intelligence analysts to collect and interpret data about national and international events. With a $1.17 million grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Wang will develop computer algorithms that can answer a query by reasoning over an event-driven knowledge base and generating disparate hypotheses about the links between causes and effects for the event in question.

“This professorship will help me to continue developing technology that can assist in data-driven learning and decision-making, where the data is noisy, incomplete, conflicting and biased,” Wang said. “For the next five years, I hope to develop more robust question answering systems over knowledge graphs that supports lineage, confidence, contradictions and explanation.”

The Goldberg professorships were created to recognize researchers that are rising stars early in their careers.

“Wang and Butler are both breaking the frontiers in their respective research areas,” Gilbert said. “Their performance, thus far, in their careers has been outstanding as they have obtained significant research funding, published top research articles and advised many Ph.D. students.”

The Goldberg Rising Star Professorships in Computer Science are the first rising star professorships for the department, and this is the first time an individual has gifted a faculty endowment to the department.