2013 GHC Invited Technical Speakers

GHC 2013 has passed. Please take a look at information for GHC 2015.

Brenda Chapman
Director, Story supervisor, and Scriptwriter

Title: I DO WHAT I LOVE TO DO…AND I’M A GIRL!

Abstract:  I DO WHAT I LOVE TO DO…AND I’M A GIRL! is a journey through Golden Globe and Oscar winning director and writer Brenda Chapman’s education and career, and a humorous account of how she thrived in a male-dominated world. As director and writer of Pixar/Disney’s 3D computer animated film, “Brave”, Brenda will discuss how the influences of her mother, her daughter, and her male mentors, helped to shape her career. She will also talk about the different perspectives she brought to the films she worked as the only woman in the story department at both Disney and Pixar and how the technical requirements of a computer animated feature worked together with her creative vision.

Biography: Brenda has a unique and broad experience as a storyteller from American film industry – as director, story supervisor, and scriptwriter. She was the first woman to direct a feature film for one of the big studios, Dreamworks’ THE PRINCE OF EGYPT and was head of story on Disney’s LION KING.

Brenda recently received an Academy Award and a BAFTA for Best Feature Animated Film, as well as a Golden Globe Award for BRAVE, a Disney/Pixar film which she wrote and directed. She is now consulting on a project for LucasFilm and developing a project for DreamWorks Animation.


Elise Foster
Education Practice Lead, Wiseman Group

Title: Are you a genius or genius maker?

Abstract: We’ve all had experience with two dramatically different types of leaders. The first type drains intelligence, energy, and capability from the people around them and always needs to be the smartest person in the room. These are the idea killers, the energy sappers, the diminishers of talent and commitment. On the other side of the spectrum are leaders who use their intelligence to amplify the smarts and capabilities of the people around them. When these leaders walk into a room, light bulbs go on over people’s heads; ideas flow and problems get solved. These are the leaders who inspire employees to stretch themselves and get more from other people. These are the Multipliers. And the world needs more of them, especially now when leaders are expected to do more with less. What could you and your organization accomplish with access to all the intelligence that sits inside it?

Biography: Early in her career, Elise Foster was happy as an engineer, managing high-profile global projects to solve complicated problems. But, it wasn’t long before she realized she wanted to solve different types of problems. Today, Elise is a leadership coach who enables education and business executives to unlock their potential and achieve even greater success. She is well-versed in the field of leadership within education systems and is the co-author of The Multiplier Effect: Tapping the Genius Inside our Schools, which hits shelves in March 2013. As the Education Practice Lead for the Wiseman Group in Silicon Valley, Elise guides leaders on using their intelligence to make everyone around them smarter and more capable.

She has taught and coached students at Indiana University (Kelley School of Business) and as a management fellow at Harvard University. She holds both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in engineering from Virginia Tech and a master’s degree in education from Harvard University.

She is a wife and mother of one school-aged daughter; she and her family enjoy traveling and exploring new cultures together. In her spare time, Elise volunteers with the Lilly Foundation Scholarship and Youth Leadership Bartholomew County where she works to uncover the genius in each high school student she encounters.


Jocelyn Goldfein
Engineering Director, Facebook

Abstract: 
Facebook is the world’s most widely used mobile application. Its breadth of functionality and speed of iteration regularly pushes the limits of what is possible on mobile platforms. Come learn about the challenges and opportunities facing mobile developers, and how Facebook tackles the hard problems.

Biography: If one word describes Jocelyn Goldfein’s career, it’s variety. Her path has led her from Silicon Valley to Austin to NYC and back. She’s worked for companies whose sizes range from tiny startup (MessageOne) to industry titan of 10,000+ (VMware), in roles ranging from engineer to co-founder to vice president. She’s been equally omnivorous when it comes to technology and domain: she’s worked across the stack from low level systems to web and mobile apps, and she’s delivered enterprise distributed systems, shrink-wrap software, and the ultimate consumer social network: Facebook.

As a Facebook engineering director, she has helped scale the engineering organization through a period of hyper-growth. Notable releases include the Facebook Camera app and a redesign of the Facebook home page. Most recently she is focusing on Facebook’s mobile experiences.

Jocelyn studied computer science at Stanford University, and has kids instead of hobbies


Sheila Nirenberg
Professor, Weill Cornell Medical College

Title: Talking to the brain in its own language

Abstract: A pressing problem in neuroscience is determining the neural code. We know that neurons send their signals in the form of trains of action potentials, but we don’t know what the code is, that is, we don’t know what the unit of information is. Is it the number of spikes per unit time? Is it the individual spike or some pattern of spikes? Getting a clear answer to this affects a great deal of work in neuroscience, both basic and applied. For basic research, it tells us what quantity we need for building models of neural computations (i.e., what spike train features we need). For applied research, it tells us what quantity we need to effectively transmit information from one brain area to another via brain-machine-interfaces or prosthetic devices. Here we describe a strategy for finding neural codes and use it to develop a powerful new kind of prosthetic device for treating blindness.

Biography: Sheila Nirenberg is a Professor of Physiology and Biophysics at Weill Cornell Medical College and at the HRH Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud Institute for Computational Biomedicine, also at Weill Cornell. Dr. Nirenberg received her PhD from Harvard University in neuroscience with an emphasis on molecular biology. After her postdoctoral work, also at Harvard, but in computational neuroscience, she joined the faculty at UCLA, receiving tenure in 2005. She was then recruited to Weill Cornell’s Department of Physiology and Biophysics. Her work here focuses on information processing in the brain and uses a combined theoretical and experimental approach.

Dr. Nirenberg has won numerous awards for her innovations, including a Beckman Young Investigator Award, a Klingenstein Fellowship, a UCLA Frontiers of Science award, a Stein Oppenheimer award, a Whitehall Foundation award, a NYC BioAccelerate Prize, and, from her students, Most Humorous Professor.


Pooja Sankar
CEO and Founder, Piazza

Title: Learning Journeys: The Promise and Perils of Online Education

Abstract: MOOC’s are all the rage these days, with the availability of online courses being touted as a cure for the rising cost of higher education in the United States as well as a way to educate the next generation of students in the developing world. The menu of online course offerings — many of them free — grows by the day, and with it the promise that any student, anywhere can educate him- or herself. Pooja Sankar, the founder and CEO of online learning platform Piazza, will discuss the promise and perils of this approach with reference to her own journey from rural India to Stanford Business School and entrepreneurship.

Biography: Pooja (Nath) Sankar is the founder and CEO of Piazza, the leading social learning platform for students and teachers in higher education. She has worked at Oracle, Kosmix, and Facebook, and has degrees from IIT, the University of Maryland, and Stanford. The genesis for Piazza and Sankar’s passion for social learning came from her experience as one of a handful of women in the computer science program at IIT in the late 1990s. Sankar started Piazza while studying for her MBA at Stanford, where she failed a class in entrepreneurship because she was too busy running the business.


Thad Starner
Associate Professor, Georgia Institute of Technology

Title: Wearable Computing: Through the Looking Glass

Abstract: Wearable computing is now a part of everyday life. Bluetooth headsets, iPods, and smart phones are commonly worn in public and have much of the functionality demonstrated by early researchers in the field. Google’s Project Glass, which has sparked the public’s imagination, leverages experience from academia to enable (hopefully) compelling new lifestyles. Wearable computing will continue to enable users in new ways, and in this talk, I will describe some of the more unusual and surprising applications currently being explored by my group at Georgia Tech. These include Mobile Music Touch (a mobile, wireless glove that helps a wearer learn new piano melodies without active attention), BrainSign (a Brain Computer Interface effort which attempts to recognize sign language by scanning the user’s motor cortex), and CHAT (the Cetacean Hearing Augmentation and Telemetry wearable computer designed for two way communication experiments with Atlantic Spotted Dolphins). I will also describe our work in using wearables to create technology to help deaf children acquire language skills.

Biography: Thad Starner is a wearable computing pioneer and an Associate Professor in the School of Interactive Computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology. He is also a Technical Lead on Google’s Project Glass, a self-contained wearable computer.

Thad received a PhD from the MIT Media Laboratory, where he founded the MIT Wearable Computing Project. Starner was perhaps the first to integrate a wearable computer into his everyday life as a personal assistant, and he coined the term “augmented reality” in 1990 to describe the types of interfaces he envisioned at the time. His group’s prototypes on mobile context-based search, gesture-based interfaces, mobile MP3 players, and mobile instant messaging foreshadowed now commonplace devices and services.

Thad has authored over 130 peer-reviewed scientific publications with over 100 co-authors on mobile Human Computer Interaction (HCI), machine learning, energy harvesting for mobile devices, and gesture recognition. He is listed as an inventor on over 70 United States patents awarded or in process. Thad is a founder of the annual International Symposium on Wearable Computers, and his work has been discussed in many forums including CNN, NPR, the BBC, CBS’s 60 Minutes, ABC’s 48 Hours, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal.


Elaine Weyuker
Researcher, Author, Visiting Scholar at Rutgers University

Title: Looking for Bugs, in All the Right Place

Abstract: Wouldn’t it be valuable to know in advance which files in the next release of a large software system are most likely to contain the largest numbers of defects?
To accomplish this, we developed a very accurate statistical model (negative binomial regression model) and used it to predict the expected number of bugs in each file of the next release of a software system. The predictions are based on simple code characteristics and bug and modification history data. Using this model I have made predictions for 170 releases of nine large industrial systems, each with multiple years of field exposure. The success in making these predictions for the industrial systems was evident as we routinely pinpointed 85% of the actual bugs in the system, and sometimes above 90% of the bugs. What makes this even more unique is the fact that we have built a fully-automated tool to make the predictions which is easy to use and requires no expertise.
Can the predictions be even more accurate? The answer is Yes. My talk will discuss some surprising results found during our empirical studies.

Biography: Elaine Weyuker is currently a Visiting Scholar at DIMACS, Rutgers University. Her research focuses on empirical software engineering and techniques to build highly reliable and dependable software. She is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, an IEEE Fellow, an ACM Fellow and an AT&T Fellow. She is the author of 170 refereed publications as well as several books and book chapters.

Among her awards are the 2012 US President’s volunteer service award, the 2010 ACM President’s Award, the 2008 AnitaB.org Technical Leadership Award for Outstanding Research and Technical Leadership, the 2007 ACM SIGSOFT Outstanding Research Award, the 2004 IEEE Computer Society Harlan D. Mills Award, the Rutgers University 50th Anniversary Outstanding Alumni Award, the 2001 YWCA Woman of Achievement Award, and the 2004 AT&T Chairman’s Diversity Award.

She was a Distinguished Member of the Technical Staff at AT&T until April 2012. Before that, she was a computer science professor at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences of NYU. She served as the chair of the ACM Committee on Women in Computing (ACM-W) from 2004 – 2012 and has been a member of the Coalition to Diversify Computing’s Executive Committee for many years.