Watson Robot Designer, Obama Campaign Social Media Expert Help UMass Amherst Computer Science Celebrate 50 Years


DATE:           Friday, Oct. 18 and Saturday, Oct. 19

TIME:            11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

WHAT:          Media opportunity with Eric Brown of IBM and Matt Rattigan, “Obama for America” campaign

WHERE:       UMass Amherst School of Computer Science, 140 Governors Drive

University of Massachusetts Amherst computer science alumni Eric Brown, director of Watson Technologies for IBM, and Matt Rattigan, a member of the Obama campaign’s digital analytics group that so successfully used online and social media tools in the 2012 presidential campaign, will be on hand to help celebrate the UMass Amherst computer science department’s 50th anniversary and its new status as the School of Computer Science.

Brown and Rattigan will be available to media from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Friday. Later, they are both taking part in a panel discussion on computing research.

Brown, an expert in question answering (QA), developed one of the first custom search engines for IBM’s T.J. Watson Research Center. The technology was later highlighted on national television when IBM took up the Jeopardy! Grand Challenge where the goal was to build a QA system that could play the quiz show game and beat a human champion.

Rattigan’s work for the Obama campaign used Facebook to reach people through their social networks and culminated in a massive get-out-the-vote effort on election day. His work with statisticians, political scientists, physicists and other computer scientists changed the way campaigns are run. “We found that in many cases, the messenger is just as important as the message itself,” he says.

Media are also invited to a “wearable computers and robotics” workshop on Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon in 150 Computer Science Building.

The three-day UMass Amherst celebration held Thursday through Saturday marks the 50th anniversary of the computer science department’s graduate program in the 1963–64 academic year and its new designation as the School of Computer Science by the University of Massachusetts Board of Trustees in June this year.

Other activities will include a career and internship fair giving students the chance to meet one-on-one with UMass Amherst computer science alums now working in industries such as BBN Raytheon, Cisco, EMC, Google, Hit Point, HP/Vertica, Pegasystems, TripAdvisor, Vistaprint and Yahoo!.