November 7, 2000
Volume 47
Number 11

Rachleff Professor and Chair of CIS: Dr. Pereira

Dr. Fernando C. N. Pereira, has been named Andrew and Debra Rachleff Professor and Chair of the Department of Computer and Information Science effective July 1, 2001.

Dr. Pereira comes to Penn from the technology sector and is currently a research scientist at the Pittsburgh office of WhizBang! Labs--a Web information mining company that has built the Internet's largest commercial on-line recruiting site, FlipDog.com. Dr. Pereira also spent 11 years as a researcher at Bell Laboratories and AT&T Labs, including six years as head of AT&T's machine learning and information retrieval research department.

Dr. Pereira holds degrees from the University of Lisbon and the University of Edinburgh, which awarded him a Ph.D. in 1982. An internationally recognized researcher in computational linguistics and artificial intelligence with particular focus on machine learning techniques in language and speech recognition, he has taught at Stanford University, the University of California at Santa Cruz, and Lisbon. A fellow of the American Association for Artificial Intelligence, Dr. Pereira has served on the editorial boards of the Journal of Logic Programming, Studies in Logic, Language, and Information, the Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research and the MIT Press series on logic programming.

"Fernando Pereira is a deep scholar who also has an innate understanding of the practical applications of research," said SEAS Dean Eduardo D. Glandt. "This powerful combination of talents has allowed him to work successfully across the interface between the academic and the corporate worlds. His knowledge of the two cultures will be a precious asset to our school."

"The great successes of computing and communications technologies in the last few years are not a sign that all the main fundamental questions of computer science have been solved," Dr. Pereira said. "On the contrary, those successes are creating extraordinary new challenges in science, engineering, education and policy. Universities are in the best position to address those new questions. Their great permeability to society through the constant flow of students, postdoctoral researchers, research grants and faculty involvement in outside activities allows them to learn firsthand of the ideas, concerns and needs of all sectors of society."

As head of the computer and information science department at Penn, Dr. Pereira's priorities will include keeping undergraduate education abreast of rapid changes in technology and society; maintaining a strong, bold research program; and further developing links with other academic departments in the sciences and humanities.

The endowed chair Dr. Pereira will assume is named for Andrew and Debra Rachleff of Portola Valley, California. Andrew Rachleff, a 1980 graduate of the Wharton School and member of the Board of Overseers of SEAS, is co-founder and general partner of Benchmark Capital, a Silicon Valley venture capital firm dedicated to helping talented entrepreneurs build technology companies. He also serves on the boards of CacheFlow, Charitable Way, Equinix, CoreExpress, Gemini Networks, Loudcloud, Mahi Networks, NorthPoint Communications and Rasa Foundries.

Agreement in Gene Therapy Lawsuit

Joint Statement

The parties to a lawsuit brought by the family of Jesse Gelsinger have reached an agreement to settle the suit. The University of Pennsylvania, the Children's National Medical Center of Washington, the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Genovo, and Drs. James M. Wilson, Mark L. Batshaw and Steven E. Raper are parties to the settlement. By mutual agreement, the amount of the settlement will be held confidential between the parties. Also by mutual agreement, Drs. Arthur L. Caplan and William N. Kelley will be dismissed from the suit prior to settlement.

University of Pennsylvania Statement

The University of Pennsylvania extends its deepest sympathy to the Gelsinger family. The University appreciates the seriousness and openness with which the family and its representatives entered into the discussions that led to the settlement. Penn's hope is that the agreement among the parties will enable the Gelsingers to bring a small measure of closure to their loss. It will also enable Penn to concentrate on moving forward with its aggressive efforts to improve its oversight and monitoring of human subject research, an effort to which the University has already devoted substantial resources of time, energy, and money. Our goal is to establish--and to continually improve upon--a national model for clinical research and in this way honor Jesse Gelsinger's memory.

Statement of the Gelsinger Family

The purpose of this lawsuit was always to bring to the public certain critical issues concerning human participation in clinical trials in general, and gene therapy trials in particular. While the Gelsingers fervently hope gene therapy will one day be the means to cure many of the horrible diseases afflicting so many, they urge that the road toward this or any medical breakthrough is free of conflicts of interest, bioethical missteps and inadequate government oversight. The Gelsingers appreciate that Penn, whatever its faults in the past, is taking seriously the need for research universities to improve the conditions under which clinical research is conducted. Penn has said it is staking out a leadership position on these issues, and that meant a great deal in resolving this case.

The Law School's Levy Conference Center

As the Law School celebrates its Sesquicentennial Anniversary, Dean Michael Fitts will dedicate the Levy Conference Center at a ceremony next week.

Law School Overseer Paul S. Levy, L '72, and his wife, Karen Levy made a $2 million gift in 1998 to fund the renovation and restoration of Sharswood Hall which is on the second floor of Silverman Hall. Sharswood Hall now contains a multimedia conference and meeting facility as well as the Segal Moot Court.

Mr. Levy is a founding partner and senior managing director of the N.Y. investment firm, Joseph Littlejohn & Levy.

In 1850, George Sharswood, faculty member and subsequently the school's first dean, welcomed a class of thirty law students who became the first to graduate from Penn's Law School.

Almanac, Vol. 47, No. 11, November 7, 2000

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