Freeman named Perkins Professor

Monday, September 21, 2015 - 10:45am

William Freeman

William T. Freeman has been appointed the Thomas and Gerd Perkins Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

“Prof. Freeman is a pioneer in using machine learning methods in computer vision, with an excellent record of service and teaching at MIT,” said Anantha Chandrakasan, department head and the Joseph F. and Nancy P. Keithley Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. “This appointment recognizes Prof. Freeman's outstanding research and educational contributions, and his many contributions to the department.”

Freeman co-developed a theoretical explanation of the surprising performance of the belief propagation algorithm in networks with loops, and found theoretical guarantees for the algorithm's performance with Gaussian graphical models. He brought belief propagation into the computer vision community, where it is now a common technique, used to solve inference problems in Markov random fields. He has also introduced data-driven methods for super-resolution from single images, now widely employed. In recent years, he co-developed motion magnification, a technique to visualize small motions, which has application in many engineering and science domains. For example, this has been used to visualize motions caused by sounds in the tectorial membrane, to show the vibration patterns of novel meta-materials, and to reveal complex motions of the throat during vocalization.

Freeman has received several outstanding-paper awards at computer vision and machine learning conferences, and test-of-time awards for papers from 1990 and 1995. He served as the program co-chair for the International Conference on Computer Vision (ICCV) in 2005, and as the program co-chair for Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR) in 2013.

In addition to his research, Freeman served as associate department head of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science for three and a half years. He co-chaired the Strategic Hiring Areas planning, leading to the hiring of 12 faculty members, and he also worked towards successfully establishing a student committee for the faculty search process. Professor Freeman was instrumental in creating Postdoc6 — a dedicated community for the postdoctoral associates in the department. He has developed and taught courses in computer vision and computational photography, and taught digital signal processing, linear systems, machine learning, and professional communication.

The Perkins Professorship was established to honor Thomas and Gerd Perkins. Tom was a graduate of Electrical Engineering, class of 1953, and is one of the founders of venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. The chair was previously held by Prof. Markus Zahn.