Public Release: 

UMD receives $2.1 million from state to create endowed chairs in math and computer science

Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development initiative matches donations from Michael and Eugenia Brin and Elizabeth Stevinson Iribe to establish new endowed chairs in mathematics and computer science at the University of Maryland

University of Maryland

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IMAGE: This image shows Jayanth Banavar, Michael Brin, Eugenia Brin and James Yorke from left to right. view more

Credit: University of Maryland

The University of Maryland has established two new endowed chairs--one in mathematics and the other in computer science--with $2.1 million in funding received from the state's Maryland E-Nnovation Initiative (MEI). The new initiative, which is administered by the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development (DBED), is designed to spur private donations to universities for applied research in scientific and technical fields by matching donations of at least $500,000.

At UMD, the Michael and Eugenia Brin Chair in Mathematics, created by the Brins with a gift of $2.5 million, will receive a $1.05 million MEI match to create a second endowed chair of the same name. The Paul Chrisman Iribe Chair in Computer Science, created by Elizabeth Stevinson Iribe with a gift of $1.5 million and an emphasis on augmented and virtual reality research, will receive a $1.05 million MEI match to create the Reginald Allan Hahne Chair in Computer Science.

"The world's best universities attract and support distinguished educators by endowing academic chairs. With this state funding, we can recruit two more outstanding faculty members to the University of Maryland who will educate students and conduct research that will change our lives," said Jayanth Banavar, dean of the UMD College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences. "We thank Elizabeth Iribe and the Brins for creating a lasting legacy that will benefit our state and our world for years to come."

The Brins have been long-time, generous supporters of UMD. Michael, a professor emeritus of mathematics, joined the UMD faculty in 1980 and retired in 2011. Eugenia is also retired, following a career as a climate and weather forecasting scientist at NASA.

UMD will recruit a world-renowned mathematician to fill the state-funded Michael and Eugenia Brin Chair in the Department of Mathematics, which ranks No. 10 in applied mathematics and No. 17 in mathematics according to U.S. News & World Report's 2015 Best Graduate Schools rankings. The Brin Chair will educate students in the university's mathematics undergraduate and graduate programs. In addition, the chair will provide students in many other fields--including the sciences, engineering and business--the solid foundation in mathematics they need to succeed in their careers.

To meet MEI requirements, the research area of the Brin Chair will be tied to the State of Maryland's economy, possibly in applied statistics, cryptography, visualization or applied mathematics. Faculty members, students and alumni of the UMD Department of Mathematics work in a wide range of fields, including software systems, cancer research, cybersecurity, image processing/data compression, weather prediction, genome assembly and biotechnology.

"Mathematics is the foundation for every scientific field and sector of the economy," said Michael. "I am very excited to see the state of Maryland's strong support for mathematics that will allow the University of Maryland to recruit another internationally distinguished mathematician to join the faculty as an endowed chair."

UMD will recruit a world leader in virtual and augmented reality to hold the Reginald Allan Hahne Chair in the Department of Computer Science, which ranks No. 16 in the world according to the 2015 Academic Ranking of World Universities. Like the Paul Chrisman Iribe Chair, which honors Elizabeth's brother, the new chair, which honors Elizabeth's son's high school computer science teacher, also aims to stimulate this exciting and innovative research area.

Future uses of virtual and augmented reality are limited only by one's imagination. UMD researchers in computer science and the university's Institute for Advanced Computer Studies (UMIACS) are currently developing and exploring many uses for the technology: surgical training for health care professionals; consumer use for new experiences in shopping, dining, tourism and travel; industrial use for training personnel to complete intricate assembly or repair projects; and national security related to enhancing the safety and efficiency of U.S. warfighters in a battlefield environment. In addition, immersive audio technology developed by UMD-based start-up company VisiSonics was recently licensed by virtual reality company Oculus VR. The new endowed chairs will build on the university's foundation in this growing field.

"With my gift, I wanted to help the University of Maryland become a leader in virtual reality, an emerging field that has become a big part of my life through my son, Brendan. I couldn't be happier that my donation will be matched by the state to amplify its impact," said Elizabeth. "I hope others will take advantage of this wonderful program to bring more outstanding faculty to College Park."

The MEI matching funds add to the generous philanthropy of the Iribe family. Elizabeth also gave another $1.5 million last fall to establish the Elizabeth Stevinson Iribe Chair of Computer Science, which supports the department chair of computer science. Elizabeth's son, Brendan Iribe--a UMD alumnus and co-founder and CEO of Oculus VR--gave a gift of $31 million to the university last year, the largest single gift in university history.

In addition to supporting student scholarships, Brendan's gift established the Brendan Iribe Center for Computer Science and Innovation--a cutting-edge research, education and entrepreneurship facility for computer science at UMD that officials plan to break ground on in spring 2016. Specialized labs in the Iribe Center will support groundbreaking research in virtual and augmented reality, along with other fields that impact this promising field, including artificial intelligence, robotics, computer vision and human-computer interaction. The building will also feature collaborative, state-of-the-art workspaces where students can bring their ideas to life.

"We are grateful for the partnership with the State of Maryland to increase the impact of our donors' gifts to critical areas," said Peter Weiler, vice president of university relations at UMD. "Extending the impact of Michael and Eugenia Brin and Elizabeth Stevinson Iribe means more transformative research for our university and our state."

In total, the MEI allocated $6.3 million in six new research professorships--two each at UMD; the University of Maryland, Baltimore; and Johns Hopkins University.

"The discoveries made and students trained at Maryland universities are among the greatest advantages we have as a state. These endowments will further strengthen our higher education institutions and pave the way for bold new research and innovation," said DBED Secretary Mike Gill. "We are proud to be partners in this endeavor with the world-renowned universities we have here in our state."

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