Rice CS welcomes five new faculty members

New hires bring expertise in theoretical computer science, trustworthy AI, and quantum computing, plus decades of teaching experience

Rice CS welcomes five new faculty members

Rice University’s Department of Computer Science has added three new tenure track assistant professors and two experienced lecturers. The new faculty members’ research interests span medical image processing, cross-lingual learning, quantum computing, theoretical computer science and learning theory, and interpretable machine learning including trustworthy artificial intelligence (AI). Each new hire started on July 1, 2023 unless otherwise noted. 

Maryam Aliakbarpour, the Michael B. Yuen and Sandra A. Tsai Assistant Professor of Computer Science, joins Rice after completing a joint postdoctoral research position working with Adam Smith at Boston University and Jonathan Ullman at Northeastern University. She also worked as a postdoctoral research associate under the supervision of Andrew McGregor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and was a visiting participant in the Probability, Geometry, and Computation in High Dimensions Program at the Simons Institute at Berkeley. Her passion for theoretical questions in statistical learning theory and theoretical computer science has led to her recent focus on algorithms with computational constraints and differential privacy. Aliakbarpour completed her Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Ph.D. in 2020 at MIT, where she was recognized as a Rising Star in EECS. 

Tirthak Patel is both an Assistant Professor of Computer Science and also the director of the Positive Technology Lab where he conducts systems-level research at the intersection of quantum computing and high-performance computing (HPC). His research explores the trade-offs among factors affecting reliability, performance, and energy efficiency—work that has earned Patel the ACM-IEEE CS George Michael Memorial HPC Fellowship. He completed his Ph.D. in Computer Engineering at Northeastern University in 2023 while publishing research nominated for best paper awards at conferences like Supercomputing (SC23) and the International Conference on Computer Aided Design (ICCAD). An important facet of his work is to make scientific research accessible, thus the tools, datasets, and methodologies from his work are largely open-sourced. 

Hanjie Chen will join Rice as an Assistant Professor of Computer Science in fall 2024. She is currently working as postdoctoral fellow in the Johns Hopkins Center for Language and Speech Processing under the supervision of Mark Dredze. Her research interests encompass trustworthy AI, natural language processing, and interpretable machine learning. Using innovative solutions, she seeks to bridge the trustworthy gap between models and humans, enabling understanding and interaction between them. In the long term, she is dedicated to developing explainable AI techniques that are easily accessible to system developers and end users for building trustworthy and reliable intelligent systems. Chen completed her Ph.D. in Computer Science in 2023, advised by Yangfeng Ji at the University of Virginia where she received the Outstanding Doctoral Student Award and the John A. Stankovic Graduate Research Award.  

Luis Guzmán Nateras has been introducing new college students to programming for over 10 years, but he is also passionate about teaching machine learning and natural language processing courses. As a Lecturer in the Department of Computer Science, he will teach a wide array of CS-related courses and continue his CS Education research. Fluent in both Spanish and English, Guzmán Nateras has studied and taught in Mexico and the United States. He completed his Ph.D. in Computer Science at the University of Oregon in 2023 where he worked on cross-lingual learning for information extraction. He earned his M.S. in Electrical Engineering at the Michoacan University of Saint Nicholas of Hidalgo (UMSNH) in 2014. 

Sinan Kockara joins Rice from the University of Central Arkansas where he served as a tenured full professor in Computer Science and Engineering. After securing several million dollars in NIH, NSF, and industry funding for his research in medical image processing, he looks forward to focusing on his teaching at Rice as a Lecturer in the Department of Computer Science. Kockara completed his Ph.D. in Applied Computing at the University of Arkansas in 2008 and his Computer Engineering degree at Dokuz Eylul University in Izmir, Turkey in 2001. His teaching experience includes graduate and undergraduate level computer science courses like parallel programming, machine learning, computer graphics, and software engineering.  

Carlyn Chatfield, contributing writer