Saturday, June 16, 2012

Search Industry Titans and Academic Researchers Converging This Summer in Portland for Information Retrieval Research Conference

Although search is ubiquitous in this age of broadband Internet and mobile wireless devices, and search engine companies are among the most prominent icons of the Internet, there are still many challenges to overcome and new functionality to be developed for search systems. The field of information retrieval (IR) long predates the mainstreaming of search and developments such as the name of the leading search engine becoming a verb (i.e., “Googling”). This field has studied and evaluated the systems and algorithms that established the foundation for modern systems.

The leading research conference in IR, spanning three and a half decades, is the ACM Special Interest Group on Information Retrieval (SIGIR) Conference. The 35th Annual ACM SIGIR Conference will be held this year in Portland, Oregon from August 12-16 at the Portland Downtown Waterfront Marriott. Registration for the conference is now available.

The SIGIR 2012 meeting begins on Sunday, August 12, 2012 with a day of Tutorials, some of which are half-day and two of which are full-day. Also taking place on that day is the Doctoral Consortium, an event that is limited to doctoral students who have been selected to participate. The day finishes up with a Welcome Reception at the conference hotel.

The first day of the regular conference is Monday, August 13. After a breakfast for newcomers to SIGIR, the Opening Ceremony will launch the conference. At this ceremony will be the presentation of the winner of the triennial Gerard Salton Award, who will give a plenary talk. This will be followed by Paper presentations in three simultaneous tracks through the rest of the day. Monday evening will cap off with Posters and Demos, along with a reception.

On Tuesday, August 14, the day will begin with a second Keynote Speaker. This will be followed by Paper presentations in three simultaneous tracks through the rest of the day. Tuesday evening will finish with the Conference Banquet just down the street from the hotel at the Portland World Trade Center.

The final regular day of the conference is Wednesday, August 15. This day will also Paper presentations in three simultaneous tracks through the day. In addition, a separate Industry Track will feature presentations from various researchers and leaders in the commercial sector. This day will also feature the annual SIGIR Business Meeting, with box lunches provided.

The conference will end on Thursday, August 16 with a day of four workshops open to all attendees.

The local host of the meeting is the Oregon Health & Science University Department of Medical Informatics & Clinical Epidemiology. I am honored to serve as the General Conference Chair, as my career in IR applied in the health and biomedical domain spans more than two decades.

Although this event is not one of the massive trade shows one might find about search and related events, this event will bring about 600 researchers from academia and industry, along with students and others, to Portland. Industry sponsors for the event lined up so far include Microsoft Research, Baidu, Google, eBay, IBM Research, Cambridge University Press, Morgan & Claypool Publishers, and Springer. The conference will draw participants from 30-40 countries.

For more information about the conference and to register to attend it, visit the conference Web site at:

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

OHSU Graduation: As Always, a Time to Celebrate

This week was Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) graduation, marking a celebration of accomplishment for students from a wide array of disciplines. It was also a milestone for the OHSU biomedical informatics graduate program, marking our 15th year of the program having graduates. I have always enjoyed attending the graduation ceremony, basking in the success of our graduates as well as the program as a whole. I have missed the ceremony only in those 15 years. Below is a picture of some of the graduates and faculty after the ceremony.

We had our annual department banquet the evening before graduation. This is another event I never miss. We honor all graduates who show up for the event as well as the staff who make success possible for them. This year I flew in from Singapore just six hours before the banquet.

I hope our new alumni will also take advantage of and participate our Alumni Steering Committee, which we have stood up in an attempt to remain engaged with them. I hope we can offer our alumni enduring value long after they complete their studies, from continuing education to networking among their peers. I also hope the alumni will serve as ambassadors to inform others about the rewards of careers in the field and the value of studying at OHSU.

As of this graduation, we have now awarded a total of 455 degrees and certificates to 425 people. (The reason for more people than certificates and degrees is that some have received more than one.) The distribution includes:
  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) - 11
  • Master of Science (MS) in Biomedical Informatics - 71
  • Master of Science in Biomedical Informatics (MBI) - 107
  • Graduate Certificate in Biomedical Informatics - 266
Some accomplishments of our individual programs are also worth noting. One of our graduates from the MS program and also a National Library of Medicine Postdoc Fellow, Dr. Paula Scariati, won the School of Medicine Best Master's Thesis Award for her thesis entitled, Making choices about breast cancer screening: A decision aid for women between the ages of 38 & 48. Our Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) University-Based Training (UBT) Grant had its first six MBI graduates along with numerous Graduate Certificate Program graduates. Our health information management (HIM) track continues to thrive, with nine graduates now having successfully passed the Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA) certification exam, six of whom are graduates of the UBT Graduate Certificate Program.

Who is an OHSU informatics alumnus? There is no single type of person who can be described. These graduates and students come from heterogeneous backgrounds. The enrollment in all of our programs combined is about 30% physicians, 34% other clinicians, and the remainder from a wide array of other backgrounds. About 6% of our students have an MBA, while 4% have an MPH. But we also have a number of other notable fields represented, including law, biosciences, library and information science, and computer science, to name a few.

Of course, our primary goal is not just to achieve numbers. Rather, we aspire (and believe we have succeeded) in providing an education to a wide diversity of people who will be successful in careers applying information and associated technologies to improve peoples' health. To that end, I am personally gratified that our program has touched so many lives and enabled individuals to launch successful careers in biomedical and health informatics.