After speeding through the faculty tenure process in only six years — while launching a successful startup — Anshumali Shrivastava has been recognized by the deans of Rice University for his teaching and academic contributions. Shrivastava, an associate professor of computer science, received the Charles W. Duncan Jr. Achievement Award for Outstanding Faculty.
To be considered for the award, Rice tenured and tenure-track faculty must first be recommended by a senior faculty member. Computer Science Department chair, Chris Jermaine, initially suggested Shrivastava for the 2023 award.
“Dr. Shrivastava is widely recognized as one of the young stars in the area of machine learning research, but that’s not the biggest reason that he should receive this award. The biggest is that Dr. Shrivastava is a disruptor,” said Jermaine in his letter of recommendation.
“Giving Dr. Shrivastava this award gives the committee a chance to recognize an early-career researcher who is not simply going along with the crowd, he is trying to fundamentally change how an entire research area operates, challenging the most basic assumptions regarding how we should train modern deep learning models.”
Jermaine’s appreciation for his colleague’s contributions is nothing new. When Shrivastava was promoted to associate professor with tenure in 2021, Jermaine said, “Anshu is not a rising star in the department… he's already one of our biggest stars. Although Anshu is widely known as an expert in machine learning—and he is—he's really an algorithmist. He's most well-known for his work on scaling machine learning computations using randomization.”
In 2015, when Shrivastava joined Rice’s computer science department, an associate professor named Luay Nakhleh was recognized for his own excellence in teaching and research. Now the William and Stephanie Sick Dean for Rice’s George R. Brown School of Engineering, Nakhleh understands the challenge of producing high quality research while simultaneously engaging and teaching students. His admiration was clear in his recommendation of Shrivastava for the outstanding faculty award.
Nakhleh wrote, "Anshu is a rising star in the machine learning and data science communities. His work is cutting edge and is noted for both its depth and breadth. He has already had a profound influence on the direction of research in several research areas."
“His accomplishments are already impressive for someone of such young age, but I expect much more from him if he persists on the current path. He is an exceptional, scholarly, and dedicated scientist, combining theory and practice in a unique outstanding manner. In all of his research, his work reflects a level of originality, rigor, and elegance that stands out in his community.”
Shrivastava, who founded Houston-based ThirdAI, received $6 million in funding for the startup the same year he was awarded tenure at Rice. Since 2021, he has continued balancing entrepreneurship with research and teaching. He has not been focused on winning awards, and this one caught him by surprise.
“This award is my first university-level award,” said Shrivastava. “First milestones are always special. Rice consists of some of the most accomplished faculties you will find anywhere in the world. I really feel lucky to be recognized at this level.”
He currently teaches two topics — Machine Learning and Probabilistic Algorithms and Data Structures. Shrivastava’s classes include both graduate students and upper-level undergraduates, and it is those students he feels ‘earned’ his award.
He said, “The real credit for this award should go to all the wonderful students I had the fortune of working with. I appear high on their shoulders and their mountain of hard work!”