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$1.14M From State Matches New Iribe Gift to Establish 2 Endowed Professorships

Expert Faculty Members to Conduct Research in Robotics, Autonomy, Machine Learning

By Abby Robinson

Exterior of the Iribe Center

Students head for the main entrance of the Brendan Iribe Center for Computer Science and Engineering. An new gift from the alum and building namesake who co-founded Oculus will fund two endowed professorships in computer science and engineering; they'll be held by experts in robotics, autonomy, artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Photo by John T. Consoli

The University of Maryland will receive $1.14 million from the state of Maryland to match a private donation establishing two new endowed professorships in the departments of Computer Science and Electrical and Computer Engineering. Made possible by a gift from alum Brendan Iribe, the professorships will be held by experts in robotics, autonomy, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning.

“There has never been a more exciting time to be in computing than now,” Iribe said. “We’re at the forefront of a new age in technology where computers begin to sense and understand the world, creating an augmented reality full of new opportunities and potential. I’m thrilled to support UMD’s efforts to teach, inspire and pioneer the future.”

The state funding comes from the Maryland E-Nnovation Initiative, launched in 2015 to spur basic and applied scientific and technical research at colleges and universities around the state. This latest award brings UMD’s total to nearly $13 million to support 17 endowed chairs and professors, including 12 in computer science.

“Our renowned research and academic programs in robotics and machine learning will be further enhanced by these two new Brendan Iribe Endowed Professorships,” said UMD President Darryll J. Pines. “I want to thank proud Terp Brendan Iribe and the state of Maryland for recognizing the value of research that helps us tackle grand challenges, while significantly contributing to the economic competitiveness and workforce development in our state.”

This is just the latest gift to UMD from Iribe, who co-founded the virtual reality company Oculus and is the namesake of the Brendan Iribe Center for Computer Science and Engineering, a state-of-the-art facility that opened on campus in 2019; he also launched the Iribe Initiative for Inclusion and Diversity in Computing, which aims to increase diversity and foster a stronger environment of inclusion among computing students at UMD.

“The Iribe name is a catalyst at the University of Maryland,” said Amitabh Varshney, dean of UMD’s College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences (CMNS). “From the new building to the diversity initiative to the named chair and professorships that have been established by both Brendan and his mother, Elizabeth Stevinson Iribe, innovation and cutting-edge research have become synonymous with the Iribe name.”

The fields of robotics, autonomy, artificial intelligence and machine learning have experienced exponential growth in recent years, and UMD is a leader in all of them. With projects including unmanned air, underwater and terrestrial autonomous vehicles, UMD researchers are leading the way in robotics and autonomy; potential applications include disaster resilience, weather monitoring, agriculture, security, search and rescue, product delivery and transportation. UMD’s expertise in artificial intelligence and machine learning extends from foundational research—including investigations of bias and fairness in autonomous systems—to applications in natural language processing, manufacturing, quantum technology, financial markets and auctions, health care and physical processes and materials.

“I am proud to say at Maryland, we’re at the forefront in creating this future,” said Samuel Graham, Jr., dean of the university's A. James Clark School of Engineering. “The Brendan Iribe Professorships will help us to continue to attract and retain the leaders we need for this rapidly growing fields of computer engineering and computer science. We’re incredibly appreciative of Brendan Iribe and the state of Maryland’s generosity and we look forward to the innovations it will generate.”

The Brendan Iribe Endowed Professors will join a vibrant community of researchers, including many who are members of the Maryland Robotics Center and the Center for Machine Learning, and CMNS and the Clark School offer numerous undergraduate and graduate education programs in these and related fields.

U.S. News & World Report ‘s latest rankings place UMD’s electrical engineering program eighth, computer science ninth and computer engineering 10th among the country’s public graduate programs. Among the country’s public undergraduate programs, the rankings place UMD’s computer science program ninth, computer engineering 14th and electrical engineering 15th.

Iribe’s generous gifts supported Fearless Ideas: The Campaign for Maryland, UMD’s just-completed $1.5 billion fundraising effort focused on elevating and expanding the university’s mission of service, enhancing academic distinction and bolstering UMD’s leading-edge research enterprise.

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