Building a World-Class Tech Team

October 14, 2013
By: Kevin Hattori

New faculty members bring industry experience, innovative research to the Joan and Irwin Jacobs Technion-Cornell Innovation Institute

 The Jacobs Technion-Cornell Innovation Institute (JTCII) at Cornell NYC Tech today announced an important step forward in creating its academic program with the recent recruitment of its first two professors — Mor Naaman and Yaron Kanza. The pair brings cutting-edge research, industry connections and their own ventures to the campus, furthering Cornell Tech’s mission to build a new graduate tech education model that fuses academic excellence with real-world applications.

“A key ingredient in any educational institution is the faculty that will serve as role models and shape the students’ future. Mor and Yaron have stellar teaching and research records, and real world experience in the high-tech industry. This combination of skills is essential as we design a new model for an applied science graduate education and launch our first M.S. degree program in Information Systems with a specialization in Connective Media,” said Professor Craig Gotsman, the Director of the JTCII.

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Associate Professor Mor Naaman

Associate Professor Mor Naaman was recruited from Rutgers University, where since 2008 he has been on the faculty of the School of Communication and Information. At Rutgers, he founded the Social Media Information Lab that is now housed at the JTCII. He is also the co-founder and chief scientist at Mahaya (a Hebrew word meaning “what happened”), which is a tech startup founded to extract the world’s stories from social media data. Mahaya recently participated in the first-ever round of TimeSpace, the New York Times’ tech incubator.

“My research focuses on social information and social media and examines social activity to learn about the world and society. Our aim is to turn social media communication into reliable, understandable and organized information,” said Naaman.

Born in Israel, Naaman played on professional Israeli basketball teams before starting his academic career. He completed his undergraduate degrees in computer science and business at Tel Aviv University and his Ph.D. in computer science at Stanford University’s InfoLab. He went on to lead a research team at Yahoo! Research Berkeley before joining Rutgers University. Naaman is a recipient of the National Science Foundation Early Faculty Career Award, as well as research awards from Google, Yahoo! and Nokia, among others. Naaman is “thrilled to be part of the JTCII, where ideas can be translated into technologies that can change people’s lives.” He added that he is especially proud to be part of the Technion-Cornell collaboration because his father is a Technion-Israel Institute of Technology graduate (Electrical Engineering, 1970).

Assistant Professor Yaron Kanza is a visiting professor from the Technion Faculty of Computer Science who will spend two years teaching and conducting research at the JTCII.  His work focuses on database systems and theory, specializing in management of web data and in geospatial and sociospatial applications, such as interactive route searches on mobile devices.

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“By collecting data from various geographical locations, we have been able to identify patterns that can be used in the urban planning of transportation routes to provide better services to the population,” said Kanza.

Kanza received his bachelor’s degree in mathematics and computer science and his master’s degree in computer science (summa cum laude) from the Hebrew University. He later received his Ph.D. from the Hebrew University, and was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Toronto until 2007, when he was recruited to the Technion. He said he is looking forward to applying his knowledge to real world needs in the unique JTCII environment.

In April, Dr. Irwin Mark Jacobs, Founding Chairman and CEO Emeritus of Qualcomm, and his wife Joan Klein Jacobs, made a $133-million gift to Cornell University and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology to create the Joan and Irwin Jacobs Technion-Cornell Innovation Institute (JTCII). The JTCII is a key component of Cornell Tech. The funds support curriculum initiatives, faculty and graduate students, and industry interactions for the two-year graduate program.

Cornell Tech was joined by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and leading media companies earlier in October to launch the first degree program to be offered by JTCII. The two-year masters degree in Connective Media is designed to train the entrepreneurial engineers and technologists desperately needed in the media sector. The Connective Media program will produce the next generation of tech talent to respond to, and drive, the digital transformation of publishing, advertising, news and information, and entertainment. Graduates of this dual degree program will receive a degree from Cornell University and from the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology. Corporate collaborators who will help shape the novel Connective Media hub include Hearst, Medium, Facebook, Betaworks, Tumblr, WordPress, and The New York Times.

New York City’s Applied Sciences initiative was designed to capitalize on the considerable growth presently occurring within the science, technology and research fields in New York, and builds on the Bloomberg Administration’s dedication to creating a more diversified and competitive economy for the future. In December 2011, the Cornell and Technion partnership was selected by the City as the first winner of the Applied Sciences competition. Cornell Tech is making progress on its permanent campus on Roosevelt Island, which will break ground early next year. When completed, the campus will house approximately 2,000 full-time graduate students.

The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology is a major source of the innovation and brainpower that drives the Israeli economy, and a key to Israel’s renown as the world’s “Start-Up Nation.” Its three Nobel Prize winners exemplify academic excellence. Technion people, ideas and inventions make immeasurable contributions to the world including life-saving medicine, sustainable energy, computer science, water conservation and nanotechnology.

American Technion Society (ATS) donors provide critical support for the Technion—more than $1.9 billion since its inception in 1940. Based in New York City, the ATS and its network of chapters across the U.S. provide funds for scholarships, fellowships, faculty recruitment and chairs, research, buildings, laboratories, classrooms and dormitories, and more.