Data Scientist and Philosopher Named Smith Professors

Roger S. Gottlieb, professor of philosophy, and Elke Rundensteiner, professor of computer science, have been named William B. Smith Professors. The professorships were established by the estate of William Binns Smith, a local entrepreneur and 20th-century industrialist who died in 1952.

Jean King, WPI’s Peterson Family Dean of Arts and Sciences, has the highest praise for the two faculty members recognized with the professorships.

“Elke Rundensteiner is the ultimate scientist, who uses big data to address the toughest societal problems and complexities,” she says. “She is the most highly cited scientist in the School of Arts and Sciences—and perhaps the university—and we are so lucky to have her as a world leader in data science.”

King credits Rundensteiner with leading WPI’s most rapidly growing interdisciplinary program—data science—with a current growth rate of 36 percent. She also has high praise for her federal grant success and describes as exemplary her commitment to women in data science, mentoring, collaboration, and scientific rigor.

Gottlieb, King says, is internationally known for his work in religious environmentalism, as a “master academic conductor—acting as a connector—bringing light to dark spaces and meaning to complex interactions.

“Roger Gottlieb is one of the most prolific writers who combines religion, spirituality, environment, ethics, and social justice—and long before we had a global understanding of the intersection among these topics,” she notes.

Smith left nearly $29 million to five Worcester-area organizations; WPI received $7 million from the estate in 2015 when his last surviving heir passed away.

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