Inside Rensselaer
* Deborah McGuinness
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Web Language and Artificial Intelligence Expert Joins Tetherless World Research Constellation
A leading expert in Web research, Deborah McGuinness, joins Rensselaer as an endowed chair of the Tetherless World Research Constellation. One of the creators of the Web language that is ushering in the next generation of the World Wide Web — the OWL Web Ontology Language — McGuinness is widely known in her field. She joins the senior constellation chair, James Hendler. Together the two top Web gurus make Rensselaer a leader in Web research.

“Rensselaer now has two of the top computer scientists in the world who study the Web and Web-based technology,” Provost Robert Palazzo said. “Dr. McGuinness brings her skill and knowledge in Web ontology and reasoning to the research constellation. Together, the researchers will help direct our research on Web technology and their guidance will help lead worldwide efforts to develop the next generation of the World Wide Web.”

McGuinness comes to Rensselaer from Stanford University where she last led the Knowledge Systems Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. Recently, she is best known for her research on the Semantic Web. The next generation of the World Wide Web, the Semantic Web allows computers and other electronics and robotics to communicate and interact without human intervention. It is the fusion of the World Wide Web with artificial intelligence. The Semantic Web uses information encoded in Web ontology languages such as OWL to allow computers to “talk” to one another and understand each other.

“The Semantic Web is poised to change the way humans and computers interact, enabling Web agents to act as trusted intelligent assistants,” says McGuinness.

In addition to studying Web languages, ontologies, and ontology environments, McGuinness is known for her work on explanation. McGuinness’ goal is to create environments that provide access to and insight into what computer systems are doing, what they are relying on, and ultimately when to trust them. She creates languages and environments for encoding and sharing “knowledge provenance”—information about where knowledge came from. McGuinness and her colleagues believe that Web agents with “explanation components” will be more usable, understandable, and easier to use.
McGuinness does not simply engage in research on fundamental Semantic Web platform components; she is also well known for putting artificial intelligence techniques into practice. Along with natural science colleagues, McGuinness has been engaged in using semantic technologies to integrate scientific information. “This work has the potential to change the way scientific research is done today,” says McGuinness. “When scientists can access a global database of scientific information, connections between disparate areas such as climate, sea ice, and animal life can be made more quickly, and with more understanding.” McGuinness recently won a deployed application award from the Innovative Applications of Artificial Intelligence conference for her team’s work on one such virtual observatory effort.

The Tetherless World Constellation at Rensselaer will guide research on technologies that will support a Web-accessible world in which personal digital assistants, cameras, music-listening devices, cell phones, laptops, and other devices converge.

McGuinness has over 25 years experience in her field. She has published more than 100 papers on knowledge-based systems, ontology environments, configuration, search technology and intelligent applications and holds five patents. Prior to joining Stanford, McGuiness worked for Bell Laboratories (later AT&T) where she co-developed a predecessor language to today’s ontology Web language and also developed environments and applications, including one that was in use for over a decade and was used to configure billions of dollars worth of telecommunications equipment. She is CEO and president of her own consulting firm and is on the board of the Semantic Web Science Foundation as well as a number of start-up companies.

She is a member of the American Association for Artificial Intelligence and the Association for Computing Machinery. McGuinness received a bachelor’s degree in computer science and mathematics from Duke University, a master’s in electrical engineering and computer science from Berkeley, and a doctorate in computer science from Rutgers University.

To learn more about the Tetherless World Constellation, go to http://tw.rpi.edu/.
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Inside Rensselaer
Volume 1, Number 7, November 8, 2007
©2007 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
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