U of M’s new GroupLens prof wins 2013 Yahoo ACE Award

Brent-HechtUniversity of Minnesota assistant professor of computer science and engineering Brent Hecht has received a 2013 Yahoo ACE (Academic Career Enhancement) Award this month for his research in the emerging field of geographic human-computer interaction.

“From idea to product innovation, Yahoo Labs is responsible for the algorithms behind the quality of the Web experience for hundreds of millions of users. The scientists at Yahoo Labs strongly believe that academic collaboration across a breadth of disciplines enhances the quality of those Web experiences. As such, Yahoo Labs scientists work to cultivate meaningful relationships with colleagues in academia to pioneer innovations that improve the Internet generally, and the Yahoo experience more specifically, in both evolutionary and revolutionary ways.”

He is among a group of five from “leading research universities around the world who are competitively selected among many promising first- and second-year faculty members at institutions conducting Yahoo-relevant academic research.”  Recognition aside, a nominal cash prize is awarded to be applied towards furthering research-related needs.

Hecht is a relatively new faculty member at the University, joining in May, nestled within the GroupLens research lab alongside Loren Terveen and Joseph Konstan.

“One reason I was attracted to the University of Minnesota is because GroupLens is world class,” he says. As a ‘bay area’ native, Hecht has received a Ph.D. in computer science from Northwestern University, a Master’s degree in geography from UC Santa Barbara, and dual Bachelor’s degrees in computer science and geography from Macalester College.

His bio reflects areas of interest found  “at the intersection of human–computer interaction, geography, and big data,” and a “major focus of his work involves volunteered geographic information and its application in location-aware technologies.”

Grouplens was started in 1994 by the late John Riedl, and it became known as a pioneer in recommender systems — leveraging other people’s decisions to make new decisions.  There’s approximately 10 Phd. students and a number of undergraduate and masters degree students with ongoing concerns such as MovieLens and Cyclopath.

“Winning this award was a fun surprise,” Hecht jokes.  “I remember hearing about it, but had no idea that it would work out.  It’s nice to be recognized for the research from Yahoo.”


U of M’s Grouplens Research Lab Goes Cyclopath for Minnesota’s Burgeoning Bicycle Community
From The Outside Looking In: Kurt Wilms and fflick
Blue Shift Software Lab concocts EventBurn beta