Carnegie Mellon receives a joint $16.5 million donation

Rose Pagano Feb 5, 2017

Carnegie Mellon recently received a joint $16.5 million donation from Professor José Moura, Professor Manuela Veloso, Adjunct Professor Aleksandar Kavcic, and Dr. Sofija Kavcic in the hopes of helping the University with research and education in engineering and data science.

All of the donors have extremely strong ties to the Carnegie Mellon community. Moura works in Carnegie Mellon’s Electrical and Computer Engineering Department as the Philip L. and Marsha Dowd University Professor. Veloso is associated with the Machine Learning Department as the Herbert A. Simon University Professor in Computer Science and Robotics. Alek Kavcic was once a doctoral student at Carnegie Mellon and recently agreed to an adjunct position in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Sofija Kavcic worked with an architectural firm in Hawaii.

Moura and Alek Kavcic made the money for this donation through their own research and study. While Kavcic was a Ph.D. student under Moura’s supervision, the two created and patented a detector that had the ability to pick up recorded data from disk drivers that were shrinking in size. Since being developed in the early 2000s, the detector became necessary to gather correct information from weak signals that were at times interfered with by stronger noises when dealing with magnetic recording density. Around 60 percent of computers produced within the last 14 years have this detector which allows users to access correctly saved data.

“This gift will provide new opportunities and resources for students and researchers in data science and engineering,” President Subra Suresh said in a University press release. “We are grateful to José, Manuela, Alek, and Sofija for their personal philanthropy and generosity to CMU, which will help build upon the university’s pioneering and interdisciplinary work into the future. The invention of José and Alek is an example of how fundamental research can change real-world systems. It transformed data storage and made a tremendous impact on CMU, and their gift will make a significant difference for future students and researchers for many years to come.”

This group’s donation is intended to finance education and research programs in the College of Engineering, School of Computer Science, and the Department of Statistics. One particular goal of this fund is to foster relationships between quantitative scientists and technologists from those various schools. Furthermore, these professors intend for this donation to help support Carnegie Mellon’s Data Storage Systems Center.

“We live in a society awash with data,” Moura said in the press release. “With its exceptionally talented faculty and students, Carnegie Mellon has an opportunity to lead the nation in finding the new solutions to acquire, store, access, transmit, and intelligently process these data, so we can have better healthcare, better education, better business solutions, better engineering, and more fulfilling jobs.”

Moura has been a member of the Carnegie Mellon family since 1986 when he became a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. He also has a courtesy appointment in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. Before coming to Carnegie Mellon, Moura was a faculty member at Instituto Superior Técnico, the Engineering School of the Technical University of Lisbon in Portugal.

“The Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering is proud of professor José Moura and Alek Kavcic’s revolutionary work in signal processing,” says Jelena Kovacevic, the Hamerschlag University Professor and head of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “We thank them for their gift to the university and college. This gift will ensure support for students and research in the field for years to come.”