David Ferucci

HPCwire's People to Watch 2012

David Ferucci

David Ferucci
IBM Fellow and the Principal Investigator (PI) for the Watson/Jeopardy! Project

A world-renowned figure to everyone from industry luminaries to grade schoolers who like to watch Jeopardy! on television, Dr. Ferrucci has been at IBM’s T.J. Watson’s Research Center since 1995, where he heads up the Semantic Analysis and Integration department. Ferrucci is currently focused on building Watson, in addition to being a research staff member. His team at IBM consists of 32 researchers and software engineers focusing on developing technologies for automatically discovering valuable knowledge in natural language content, using it to enable better decision-making, and leveraging those technologies in a variety of intelligent search, data analytics, and knowledge management solutions. We can’t wait to see what’s new in the mix from Ferucci and Watson this year.

As part of his research, he led the team that developed the Unstructured Information Management Architecture (UIMA). UIMA is a software framework and open standard widely used by industry and academia for collaboratively integrating, deploying and scaling advanced text and multi-modal (e.g., speech, video) analytics. As chief software architect for UIMA, Ferrucci led its design and chaired the UIMA standards committee at OASIS. The UIMA software framework is deployed in IBM products and has been contributed to Apache open-source to facilitate broader adoption and development.

In 2007, Ferrucci took on the Jeopardy! Challenge – tasked to create a computer system that can rival human champions at the game of Jeopardy! As the PI for the exploratory research project, dubbed DeepQA, he focused on advancing automatic, open- domain question answering using massively parallel evidence based hypothesis generation and evaluation. By building on UIMA, on key university collaborations and by taking bold research, engineering and management steps, he led his team to integrate and advance many search, NLP and semantic technologies to deliver results that have out-performed all expectations and have demonstrated world-class performance at a task previously thought insurmountable with the current state-of-the-art. The famous Watson, the computer system built by Ferrucci and his team beat the highest ranked Jeopardy! champions of all time on national television on February 14, 2011. He is now leading his team to demonstrate how DeepQA can make dramatic advances for intelligent decision support in areas including medicine and health care.

Ferrucci has been the Principal Investigator (PI) on several government-funded research programs on automatic question answering, intelligent systems and saleable text analytics. His expertise lies in the areas of Natural Language Processing (NLP), Software Architecture, Information Retrieval, Machine Learning and Knowledge Representation and Reasoning (KR&R).

Ferrucci graduated from Manhattan College with a BS in Biology and from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1994 with a PhD in Computer Science, specializing in knowledge representation and reasoning. He is published in the areas of AI, KR&R, NLP and automatic question answering. When he’s not spending his time with Watson, Ferrucci enjoys getting together with family and close friends each year to make his own wines, everything from harvesting the grapes to bottling the finished product. Truly a delicious past time!

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