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Ron Alterovitz and Mohit Bansal were recognized with distinguished professorships ahead of the 2024-2025 academic year
June 10, 2024

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has conferred distinguished professorships on computer science professors Ron Alterovitz and Mohit Bansal. Distinguished professorships are among the highest honors that the university bestows, and recognized faculty have shown distinction and leadership in their field or across disciplines.

Alterovitz was named Lawrence Grossberg Distinguished Professor, while Bansal was named John R. and Louise S. Parker Distinguished Professor. Both appointments will take effect on July 1, 2024.

Conferral of distinguished professorships requires approval by the Faculty Council’s Appointment, the Promotion and Tenure Committee, and the University’s Board of Trustees. The university has conferred 57 such professorships over the past year, and the full list can be found in this university announcement.

Ron AlterovitzRon Alterovitz, Lawrence Grossberg Distinguished Professor

Alterovitz leads the UNC Computational Robotics research group, which develops novel algorithms for robots to learn and plan their motions, with a focus on enabling robots to perform new, less invasive medical procedures and to assist people in their homes and workplaces.

Alterovitz has been a faculty member in the Department of Computer Science since 2009. A team led by Alterovitz demonstrated in 2023, for the first time, a robotic medical needle capable of autonomously maneuvering through living tissue to reach a target while avoiding anatomical obstacles.

His research group has been recognized with Best Paper awards at conferences focused on robotics, medical imaging, and computer science education. He has received research funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF), including an NSF Early Career Development (CAREER) Award in 2012. In 2019, he received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), which is the highest honor bestowed by the United States government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers.

Mohit BansalMohit Bansal, John R. and Louise S. Parker Distinguished Professor

Bansal directs the Multimodal Understanding, Reasoning, and Generation for Language Lab (stylized as “MURGe-Lab”), as part of the UNC Natural Language Processing and Machine Learning Group. He is also co-principal investigator and Core AI lead for the AI Institute for Engaged Learning, which is an institute funded by $20 million from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Bansal has been a UNC Computer Science faculty member since 2016, when he joined UNC from the Toyota Technological Institute at Chicago and, prior to that, the University of California, Berkeley. In 2019, his team developed the first multimodal large-scale pretrained mode, named LXMERT. Working alongside researchers from Microsoft, he and his research lab also developed CoDi, a novel AI system capable of generating any combination of output medium (e.g, text, images, videos, audio) from any combination of inputs. Bansal’s lab is also leading several efforts to improve the classroom/educational experience and collaborative engagement via multimodal analysis and generative models.

He has earned numerous Outstanding Paper awards from research conferences in machine learning and natural language processing. He has been recognized with various prestigious recognitions, such as the IIT Kanpur Young Alumnus Award, Army Research Office’s Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (ECASE) and Young Investigator Program Award (YIP), Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Young Faculty Award (YFA) and Director’s Fellowship, and NSF Early Career Development (CAREER) Award, all of which are among the highest honors bestowed by these agencies and institutes.