To honor women this International Women's Day, I have a several posts, broadly around the topic of women in STEM. Previous posts in this series include: Awesome People: Bonnie Dorr, Awesome People: Ellen Riloff, Awesome People: Lise Getoor and Awesome People: Karen Spärck Jones.
Continuing on the topic of "who has been influential in my career and helped me get where I am?" today I'd like to talk about Kathy McKeown, who is currently the Director of the Institute for Data Sciences and Engineering at Columbia. I had the pleasure of writing a mini-bio for Kathy for NAACL 2013 when I got to introduce her as one of the two invited speakers, and learned during that time that she was the first woman chair of computer science at Columbia and also the first woman to get tenure in the entirety of Columbia's School of Engineering and Applied Science. Kathy's name is near synonymous with ACL: she's held basically every elected position there is in our organization, in addition to being a AAAI, ACM, and ACL Fellow, and having won the Presidential Young Investigator Award from NSF, the Faculty Award for Women from NSF and the ABI Women of Vision Award.
Although---like Bonnie and Karen---I met Kathy through DUC as a graduate student, I didn't start working with her closely until I moved to Maryland and I had the opportunity to work on a big IARPA proposal with her as PI. That was the first of two really big proposals that she'd lead and I'd work on. These proposals involved both a huge amount of new-idea-generation and a huge amount of herding-professors, both of which are difficult in different ways.
On the herding-professors end, I am so amazed with how Kathy manages a large team. We're currently having weekly phone calls, and one of the other co-PI's and I have observed in all seriousness that being on these phone calls is like free mentoring. I hope that one day I'd be able to manage even half of what Kathy manages.
Spending any amount of time with Kathy is a learning experience for me, and I also have to thank Bonnie Dorr for including me on the first proposal with Kathy that kind of got me in the door. I'm incredibly indebted to her amazing intellect, impressive herding abilities, and open personality.