CU-Boulder Linguistics Professor Wins 2002 MacArthur Fellowship

September 24, 2002

University of Colorado at Boulder Associate Professor Daniel Jurafsky has been named a 2002 winner of the MacArthur Fellowship, commonly known as the "genius grant."

Jurafsky, an associate professor of linguistics and computer science, is the sixth CU-Boulder faculty member to win the prestigious award from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation of Chicago. Jurafsky, 39, was one of 24 recipients of the 2002 "no-strings attached" funding. He will receive $500,000.

"I am very honored to receive a MacArthur Fellowship, which I see as recognition of the work of an entire lab here at CU-Boulder," Jurafsky said.

The MacArthur Program selection committee cited Jurafsky for his work establishing "the foundations for developing systems that use natural language to interact with people." Jurafsky's research is in the field of computational linguistics. 

His work focuses on using computers to model how people use language, and getting computers to understand humans. Much of his research has been on identifying patterns in syntax that provide clues to the underlying semantic structure of communication.

"Jurafsky's basic research directly enhances the engineering of human-machine natural language systems," concluded the committee.

"For the third consecutive year I am honored to congratulate a Boulder faculty member, this time Associate Professor Jurafsky, who has been named to the prestigious group of MacArthur Fellows," said Chancellor Richard L. Byyny. "It is particularly exciting to see a young faculty member receive this honor, and especially one whose research combines the highly technical field of computer science with the more humanistic study of linguistics in the development of human language systems for modern technology.

"I am honored to recognize this high achievement by Professor Jurafsky," he said.

Jurafsky is the sixth CU-Boulder faculty member to have won a MacArthur Fellowship since the program was begun in 1981. Past winners include David Hawkins of philosophy in 1981, Charles Archambeau of physics in 1988, Patricia Limerick of history in 1995, Margaret Murnane of physics in 2000 and Norman Pace of molecular, cellular and developmental biology in 2001.

"Dan is an extraordinary person," said linguistics Chair Barbara Fox. "Not only is he a brilliant and creative thinker, but he is a kind, generous and giving human being. We are immensely proud of him, and we are extremely fortunate to have him in our community."

Jurafsky received his bachelor's degree and his doctorate from the University of California at Berkeley. He has been a faculty member in the linguistics department at CU-Boulder since 1996.

His research has been published in journals such as Computational Linguistics and Cognitive Science. His most recent book, co-authored with CU-Boulder computer science Professor James Martin, and titled "Speech and Language Processing: An Introduction to Natural Language Processing, Computational Linguistics, and Speech Recognition," is a highly regarded textbook about computational linguistics.

Jurafsky's current research, in collaboration with Research Professor Wayne Ward at CU-Boulder's Center for Spoken Language Research, focuses on broadening computer speech recognition systems to better recognize people with strong foreign accents. He also is working on developing computer programs for the Web that will allow people to type questions and receive answers directly from the Web.

Additional information is available on Jurafsky's home page on the Web at http://www.colorado.edu/ling/jurafsky.

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