Campus & Community

Barbara Grosz named dean of Radcliffe Institute

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Barbara J. Grosz, Higgins Professor of Natural Sciences in Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, has been appointed the dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, President Drew Faust announced today (April 28).

A prominent computer scientist with wide-ranging intellectual interests, Grosz has served as interim dean of the Radcliffe Institute since July 1, 2007, and earlier served as Radcliffe’s first dean of science from 2001 to 2007. She joined Harvard as Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Science in 1986.

“Radcliffe has flourished this past year under Barbara Grosz’s leadership, and her lively mind, her scholarly distinction, her deep sense of institutional commitment, and her talent for creating intellectual communities and connections are sure to help the Institute thrive in the years to come,” said Faust, herself the former dean of the Radcliffe Institute from 2001 to 2007. “Barbara has been one of the Institute’s principal architects from its beginnings, and she is exceptionally well-positioned both to guide its next phase and to strengthen its bonds with other parts of Harvard across a wide span of fields. It will be a pleasure to continue working with her, and to continue supporting the important and imaginative work of Radcliffe’s scholars and the vital role the Institute plays at Harvard.”

“I am honored by President Faust’s asking me to continue leading Radcliffe and thrilled to be able to do so,” said Grosz. “Radcliffe has become one of the world’s premier institutes for advanced study, and the opportunity to interact with fellows across the disciplines has been richly rewarding and intellectually exciting. With the excellent team at Radcliffe, I look forward eagerly to engaging with the outstanding scholars, scientists, and artists who will join us in the coming years. I also look forward to building upon our accomplishments to date by enhancing opportunities for our fellows and for Harvard faculty to develop new collaborations and explore new frontiers. I am delighted to continue being part of the team working with President Faust and Provost Hyman as they develop and advance the University’s intellectual agenda.”

Grosz’s appointment marks the culmination of a search launched last fall and chaired by Provost Steven E. Hyman, with help from an advisory group comprising 11 faculty members from an array of different Harvard Schools and fields.

“I’m very pleased that Barbara Grosz has agreed to carry forward her leadership of Radcliffe,” said Hyman. “The search exposed us to some remarkably impressive candidates, both inside and outside Harvard, and in the end Barbara’s intellect and experience, her academic values, and her devotion to Radcliffe and to Harvard brought our process full circle. Now, as before, Radcliffe will be in excellent hands.

“I’m also very grateful to the members of the faculty advisory group who worked so thoughtfully on the search,” Hyman added. “We had a spirited and illuminating series of conversations, and it’s clear that there’s a great deal of interest across Harvard in helping to assure the Radcliffe Institute’s continued success.”

During Grosz’s interim deanship, Radcliffe has moved forward programmatically, developing several new ways to enhance collaborations with faculty from across Harvard’s Schools, including a short-term visitors program. With the advice of a committee composed of faculty from many of Harvard’s Schools, it has been developing a policy studies initiative to connect the research of Radcliffe Fellows and the participants in its Exploratory and Advanced Seminars with key policy challenges facing the world. The Schlesinger Library has moved ahead on its strategic plan, making its collections more accessible and diverse. The fellowship program at the heart of the Institute, which continues to bring a broad array of leading scholars, scientists, and artists to the Harvard community each year, will move to its new home in a renovated Byerly Hall in July.

As the Radcliffe Institute’s first dean of science from 2001 to 2007, Grosz designed several initiatives that have enabled the Institute to attract to its fellowship program leading scientists, including experimentalists as well as theorists, from across the life and physical sciences and mathematics. She has helped bring to the Institute, and the larger Harvard community, not only distinguished individual scientists, but multidisciplinary “clusters” of fellows focused on such topics as cosmology and theoretical astrophysics, randomness and computation, and the interactive visualization of musical structure.

Under Grosz’s leadership, the public dimension of the Radcliffe science program has grown to include lectures, panel discussions, and symposia on a range of cutting-edge scientific topics. The symposium series, for example, has included programs on computational biology, privacy and security in computer systems, designing biology (research aimed at predicting and controlling the behavior of biological systems by design, using tools developed at the interface of biomedical and physical systems), biodiversity in the anthropocene (measuring and managing the human impact on nature), tissue engineering, and origins of life. A number of these symposia have helped to launch new interdisciplinary efforts at Harvard.

Grosz has been a member of the Harvard faculty since 1986, first as Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Science and currently (since 2001) as Higgins Professor of Natural Sciences. She is widely known for her contributions to artificial intelligence, especially in the areas of natural-language processing and multi-agent systems. She developed some of the earliest computer dialogue systems, and established the research field of computational modeling of discourse. Her research on models of collaboration has provided the framework for several collaborative multi-agent systems and human- computer interface systems.

Grosz has played an active role in a variety of institutional domains in addition to her own scholarship and teaching. She is a past member of the Faculty Council of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, as well as a current member of the Harvard University Science and Engineering Committee (HUSEC) and the University’s Council of Deans. She also served for 11 years on the FAS Standing Committee on Athletic Sports.

A leader in efforts to increase the participation of women in science, Grosz in 2005 chaired Harvard’s Task Force on Women in Science and Engineering, which analyzed and recommended ways to build and sustain the pipeline of women pursuing academic careers in science, from undergraduate studies to graduate and postdoctoral work to advancement through faculty ranks. Previously, she chaired the FAS Standing Committee on the Status of Women when it issued its 1991 report on women in the sciences at Harvard, which included recommendations for improving the recruitment and retention of women scientists at the University.

Grosz is an elected member of the National Academy of Engineering, the American Philosophical Society, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a fellow of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI), the Association for Computing Machinery, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In 1993, she became the first woman to serve as president of the AAAI. She serves on the executive committee and is a former trustee of the International Joint Conferences on Artificial Intelligence.

Before joining the Harvard faculty, Grosz was a senior staff scientist and director of the Natural Language and Representation Program in the AI Center at SRI International and was co-founder of the Center for the Study of Language and Information at Stanford University. She received a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Cornell University and master’s and doctoral degrees in computer science from the University of California, Berkeley.