Two Alums Are Research Scientists at Google
Only 12% of the over 720 researchers at Google Inc. are women, and two of those women are TJ graduates.
Emily Pitler, TJ ’03, is very grateful to TJ for introducing her to computer science. Because of TJ’s mandatory computer science requirement, she enrolled in the introductory computer science course taught in the summer of 2000 by Stephen Rose. She came away very excited about the subject and went on to take several electives in computer science at TJ with Jerry Berry, Phyllis Rittman, and Shane Torbert, and spent her TJ summers as a computer science teaching assistant.
Dr. Pitler is currently a research scientist at Google in their New York City office. Her research focuses on the algorithms a computer uses to parse sentences. Unlike computer languages, which can be unambiguously parsed by compilers, natural language sentences pose considerable computational and statistical challenges for automatic parsers. The sentence “I shot the elephant in my pajamas” is an example of an ambiguous natural language sentence: either the speaker or the elephant could be the one wearing pajamas. Parsing, which resembles the sentence mapping done to understand English grammar, can improve the accuracy of a computer translation from one language to another and its recognition of a question or command. Dr. Pitler and her colleagues focus on making these parsers for natural language more efficient and more accurate.
After TJ, Dr. Pitler obtained her bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from Yale and her PhD in Computer & Information Science from the University of Pennsylvania. While at TJ, she was on the Swim and Dive team, played bass clarinet in the marching band, and was an editor of the literary magazine, “Threshold.”
Andrea Frome, TJ ’92, works on the Google Brain team in the company’s Machine Intelligence department. Artificial Intelligence work at Google includes developing and scaling up sophisticated algorithms for areas such as speech recognition, language translation, and visual processing, which have applications in many Google products, including YouTube, Android, and Google Earth. The Google Brain team works on a system, algorithms, and applications of large-scale artificial neural networks, an area commonly referred to as “deep learning,” currently one of the hottest areas in computer science research.
In Dr. Frome’s most recent publications, she and her co-authors refine a novel method for training a computer to identify images. In addition to the standard method of training – showing the computer billions of images, each of which is associated with one or more labels – the new method incorporates a second body of information, namely text, with numbers representing the proximity of relationships among words in that text. Computers trained using both the standard and novel methods demonstrate superior ability to identify images not shown during training.
Dr. Frome has also worked on a system that addresses the challenge of automatically detecting and blurring faces and license plates in Google Street View, a privacy protection of concern to individuals and entire markets.
Dr. Frome obtained her bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science from Mary Washington College (now University) and, after working on modeling and database-backed applications for an environmental consulting firm, decided computers were what interested her most. She obtained her PhD in Computer Science from the University of California, Berkeley in 2007. While working as a grad student intern at Google, she started the project that became the “similar images” feature in Google Image Search, the work for which made up the bulk of her PhD thesis.
While at TJ, Dr. Frome was on the crew team, went on to row in college, and rows today on a team near her home in Oakland, CA. She was also very involved with TJ choir. “I was a cheerleader at TJ for 3 years, though I don’t do that any more,” she wrote, adding a ‘smile’ icon. Fun Fact #1: Dr. Frome spent three years learning flying trapeze. Fun Fact #2: Her mother is TJ Math teacher Cookie Frome, who retired at the end of last year.
“I still have close friendships with several of my friends from the TJ crew team,” she wrote. “While I didn’t study computer science in high school, the educational, social, and extra-curricular experiences that I had at TJ laid the groundwork for what I’ve accomplished and the well-rounded life I enjoy now. I’m extremely grateful to TJ and my teachers for what I learned and the confidence that they helped build in me. I wouldn’t be where I am now without it.”