Lenore Blum (PhD, MIT) is Distinguished Career Professor of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) where she is also Dean’s Professor in Technology Entrepreneurship, Faculty Director of the Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship and Founding Director of Project Olympus, a proof-of-concept innovation center she founded in 2007. Project Olympus works with faculty and students across campus to bridge the gap between cutting-edge university research/innovation and economy-promoting commercialization for the benefit of our communities. Since 2007, over half the Carnegie Mellon start-ups have come through Project Olympus. Olympus is a good example of Lenore Blum’s determination to make a real difference in the academic community and the world beyond.
Lenore’s research, from her early work in model theory and differential fields (logic and algebra) to her work in developing a theory of computation and complexity over continuous domains (mathematics and computer science), has focused on merging seemingly unrelated areas. The latter work (with Felipe Cucker, Mike Shub and Steve Smale), forms a theoretical basis for scientific computation. In 1990 she reported on this work at the International Congress of Mathematicians in Kyoto. On the eve of Alan Turing’s 100th birthday in June 2012, she was plenary speaker at the Turing Centenary Celebration at the University of Cambridge, England, showing how a little known (to logicians and computer scientists!) paper of Turing’s is fundamental to this theory. Lenore is excited by her new research (with her husband Manuel and son Avrim) on creating a mathematical model for a “conscious AI/conscious Turing Machine.” She has given invited talks at international conferences in the US, Europe, China, Southeast Asia, the former Soviet Union, Latin America and Africa. Most recently, in the fall of 2018, she gave a plenary talk on “Towards a Conscious AI: A Computer Architecture Inspired by Cognitive Neuroscience” at Microsoft Research Asia’s 20th Anniversary Celebration in Beijing.
Diversity and Increasing Participation of Girls and Women in STEM
Lenore is internationally recognized for her work in increasing the participation of girls and women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields. She was founding co-Director of the Math/Science Network and its Expanding Your Horizons conferences, which has served over one million middle and high school girls since inception in the early 1970s. In 1974, Lenore founded the Mills College Computer Science Department, the first at any women’s college on the planet. Arriving at CMU in 1999, she founded the Women@SCS program –currently half the undergraduate CS majors at CMU are women. At CMU, she was one of the longest serving members on the President’s Diversity Advisory Committee (DAC).
Public Understanding of STEM
Lenore has also been committed to increasing public understanding of mathematics, prominent examples of which have been Mathematical Sciences Research Institute’s (MSRI) Fermat Fest and “Conversations” between mathematics teachers and researchers. For the Y2K meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Washington, DC, she organized a day long symposium on “The Reasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics” (Part I. Mathematics in Hollywood, Industry and Daily Life; Part II. Complexity and Computation: Paradigms for the 21st Century). At CMU, she co-founded CS4HS for high school teachers, now scaled world-wide by Google. The Project Olympus Show & Tells, showcase cutting-edge CMU research and innovations for the campus and wider communities.
Serving the Professional Community
Lenore has served the professional community in numerous capacities, including as third President of the Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM) and Vice President of the American Mathematical Society (AMS). She was Chair of Section A (Mathematics) of the AAAS. She has taught at the University of California at Berkeley, was a Senior Researcher at the International Computer Science Institute and served as Deputy Director of the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI), both also in Berkeley. She is currently on the Advisory Board of the new free online WorldQuant University, built on the premise that while talent is universally distributed, opportunity is not.
Honors and Awards
In 1980 Blum was elected Fellow of the AAAS. In June 1999, on the 25th anniversary of the founding the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science at Mills College, she was awarded Doctor of Laws, honoris causa. She is an inaugural fellow of both the AMS and the AWM. In 2004 Lenore received the US Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring. In 2009 she received the Carnegie Science Catalyst Award recognizing her work targeting high-tech talent to promote economic growth in the Pittsburgh region and for increasing the participation of women in computer science. In 2018, she received Carlow University’s Women of Spirit Award and the Lifetime Achievement Award from Simmons University.
Short biographies can be found in Women in Mathematics: The Addition of Difference, the Agnes Scott web site, the The MacTutor History of Mathematics archive, the delightful book Women and Numbers for grade school girls. She particularly likes a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article that appeared after she and her husband joined CMU, Dad, mom join son to form a potent computer science team at CMU and more recently, Accidental activist Lenore Blum changes formula for women in math. Several years ago, she re-edited a film she made over 40 years ago, now retitled, “Back to the Future.” A short article on her early days at Carnegie Tech with Alan Perlis appeared recently in the Pittsburgh Quarterly online. There are countless other news articles highlighting Lenore’s work in various domains.