GRASP Alumnus, Prof. Ioannis Kakadiaris, Named Hugh Roy And Lillie Cranz Cullen University Professor

Wednesday September 14, 2011

Professor Ioannis Kakadiaris (www.cs.uh.edu/~ioannisk), noted for his cutting edge research in biometrics and cardiovascular informatics, was recently named a Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen Distinguished Professor, one of the university's most prestigious honors.

"I am deeply indebted to the Cullen family for their generosity to the University of Houston. I am proud to be part of UH and honored to hold this professorship. I want to emphasize that the research accomplishments to date are the result of close collaboration with the students and postdoctoral fellows in my research group along with notable colleagues from a variety of fields, including mathematics, science, engineering and medicine. Interacting with our Tier-1 caliber students is one of the most gratifying aspects of my profession.  This honor is dedicated to all of them.”

Kakadiaris, whose primary faculty appointment is in computer science, is also a joint faculty member for the departments of biomedical engineering and electrical & computer engineering. As director of the Computational Biomedicine Lab (CBL, www.cbl.uh.edu),he utilizes high performance computing facilities provided by the Texas Learning & Computation Center (TLC2) in combination with the lab’s proprietary image analysis software to develop pragmatic solutions to problems with significant societal impact.

CBL stands at the forefront of research in image computing, generating solutions to applications of computer vision and pattern recognition with an emphasis on computational life science sciences (cancer informatics, cardiovascular informatics, and neuroinformatics), non-verbal human behavior understanding (facial structure and expression analysis and human activity analysis).

For example, in the domain of cardiovascular informatics, CBL is developing a new scoring algorithm capable of identifying individuals at risk of suffering a heart attack in the next 12 months. The lab’s previous work in vasa vasorum (neovascularization) imaging pioneered a new active research area.

In the domain of biometrics, CBL has developed a proprietary 3D face recognition software that won top ranking in the 3D-shape section of the 2007 Face Recognition Vendor Test (FRVT) organized by NIST, and currently develops a 3D-aided 2D face recognition system whose initial results outperform state-of-the-art 2D-face recognition methods.

Kakadiaris’ research is supported by grants from federal sources (National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Defense, and U.S. Department of Justice), the state (Norman Hackerman Advanced Research Program), and industry. Awards from such prestigious funding entities are another strong testament to the value of his research.

One of the many significant outgrowths of Kakadiaris’ pioneering efforts is co-founding the Pumps & Pipes conference along with Drs. Alan B. Lumsden (Methodist DeBakey Heart and Vascular Center) and William E. Kline. This prodigious annual event unites cardiovascular researchers with energy scientists and engineers from two of the nation’s largest and most vital industries, medicine and energy, along with researchers from the University of Houston to develop complementary technologies.

In addition, Kakadiaris recently co-founded and participated in a community outreach program called “UH Researcher for a Day,” designed to expose high school students to the challenges and rewards of hands-on scientific research.

“One of our missions as academic researchers is to promote the value of basic research to find solutions to problems with high societal impact. This has the potential to be a life-changing experience for some kids who come from a very economically challenged area of our city,” said Kakadiaris.

It is easy to discern why Kakadiaris was nominated for a Cullen designation given his many notable achievements as a researcher, professor, and mentor.

"Ioannis Kakadiaris conducts groundbreaking research that transcends traditional boundaries between disciplines and generates highly interesting results with potential for great impact,” said TLC2 Director Lennart Johnsson. “He also demonstrates a strong commitment to community outreach and peer-based training. His approach closely reflects TLC2’s mission, and his contributions to research and the community are significant and laudable. Awarding a Cullen Distinguished Professor designation to Ioannis Kakadiaris is well-deserved."

The nomination originated from Eckhard Pfeiffer Professor of Computer Science Ioannis Pavlidis with support from Chair of Computer Science Jaspal Subhlok. It was then reviewed by a committee of Cullen professors along with internal and external recommendations from his peers, culminating in a recommendation to the provost.

Pavlidis spoke highly of his colleague when asked to comment on the award. “The attainment of the Cullen Distinguished University Professor status signifies due recognition for Professor Kakadiaris’ illustrious research, teaching, and service record to the imaging community and this university. It also brings to the fore the first class human capital the computer science department has cultivated in the last decade.”

Subhlok shared his reasons for endorsing the nomination. "Dr. Kakadiaris is an invaluable asset to the University of Houston. His record of research at the intersection of health and computing is phenomenal, judged by technical publications and societal impact. His leadership in the university and professional community has clearly helped raise the profile of the computer science department and the University of Houston. No less impressive is his record as a teacher and mentor. I am delighted that he has been awarded a richly deserved Cullen Professorship."

Dr. Kakadiaris joined UH in August 1997 following a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Kakadiaris earned a B.Sc. in Physics at the University of Athens in Greece, M.Sc. in Computer Science from Northeastern University, and Ph.D. in Computer Science at the University of Pennsylvania.

He has received numerous awards throughout his career, including the NSF Early Career Development Award, and the James Muller Vulnerable Plaque Young Investigator Prize.

His research has also garnered significant media attention from the Discovery Channel, National Public Radio, KPRC NBC News, and KHOU CBS News.