Kavita Bala, Dean of Computing and Information Science and Professor of Computer Science, is featured in a column of the Communications of the Association for Computing Machinery (CACM) entitled "Considering the Societal Impact of Computing." John Delaney catches up with her:
"In college, at my school, students had the choice to take either the biology track or the computer science track," recalls Kavita Bala, dean of the Faculty for Computing and Information Science at Cornell University. "If you took the biology track you had to dissect a frog, so I picked computer science."
After that, "I was hooked," she adds, "there was no turning back."
She earned her Bachelor of Technology degree in computer science at the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay, India, and her master’s and Ph.D. degrees, both in computer science, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. After obtaining her Ph.D., she joined the faculty at Cornell, and has remained there since.
Bala’s research interest is in the area of computer graphics and computer vision, with a focus on research in visual recognition, physically based rendering, and material modeling and perception. Her research on scalable rendering technology has been adopted in industrial products for virtual design and prototyping.
In 2015, Bala co-founded the start-up GrokStyle, which created an app that automatically identifies furniture and home decor from just about any picture or angle. Ikea became a client of the company, which was acquired by Facebook in 2019.
As dean, Bala feels it is necessary to consider the societal impact of computing. "We will have to grapple with data science, and information and computer technology, within a societal context, whether it is fairness or access," she said. "These things are going to be more important within the next decade."
Read more about Bala's start-up GrokStyle and its evolution into GrokNet at Facebook.
See also remarks on Bala's ACM SIGGRAPH 2020 Computer Graphics Achievement Award and her inclusion as a Fellow of the ACM.