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Mari Ostendorf named UW Vice Provost for Research

July 9, 2021

Story by Jackson Holtz | UW News

University of Washington Provost Mark Richards announced on Thursday the appointment of ECE Professor Mari Ostendorf as Vice Provost for Research, set to begin Sept. 1. Ostendorf has been serving as Associate Vice Provost for Research in the Office of Research since 2017.

Ostendorf will assume leadership of the UW’s premier and growing research enterprise from Mary Lidstrom, who has served for 15 years as Vice Provost for Research. Lidstrom will step down from the role Aug. 31 and return to the faculty to focus on her research in chemical engineering and microbiology.

Mari Ostendorf

Mari Ostendorf / University of Washington

Over the past 16 years, the University’s research portfolio has grown from $996 million to an astounding $1.63 billion in 2020. Since 2010, the UW has received more externally sponsored research funding than any other U.S. public university. Recent global rankings that emphasize research place the UW in the range of sixth to 16th in the world.

“Because the Office of Research partners with leaders and units across the university, Dr. Ostendorf’s demonstrated vision and collaborative leadership will be critical to advancing our interdisciplinary research efforts, as well as our ongoing diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives,” Richards said.

Collaborative research has grown, with 27% of UW research funding involving partnerships with other entities. The Office of Research has evolved and grown as well, with additional units and programs and a host of initiatives focused on serving the research community.

“I look forward to supporting the Provost’s diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, recognizing that diverse perspectives foster innovation, and to helping build partnerships that strengthen the UW ecosystem for interdisciplinary research,” Ostendorf said.

In addition to holding an endowed professorship of system design methodologies in the College of Engineering’s electrical and computer engineering department, Ostendorf is an adjunct professor of computer science and engineering, and of linguistics. She also has served as associate dean for research and graduate studies in the College of Engineering and as associate chair for research in electrical engineering.

A prominent researcher in the areas of speech and language technology, Ostendorf’s current research focuses on conversational artificial intelligence, exploring dynamic and context-aware models for understanding and generating speech and text, particularly in multi-party contexts. This work contributes to a variety of applications, from education to clinical and scientific information extraction, and has been used in automatic analysis of human-to-human call center conversations, automatic extraction of information from clinical notes, and natural language processing to support development of more accurate STEM assessments.

Ostendorf earned her doctoral, master’s and bachelor’s degrees in electrical engineering from Stanford University, joining the UW in 1999 after several years as an electrical and computer engineering faculty member at Boston University. Elected to the National Academy of Engineering earlier this year, she is also a fellow of the IEEE, the International Speech and Communication Association and the Association for Computational Linguistics, and is a member of the Washington State Academy of Sciences, a corresponding fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and a former Australian-American Fulbright Scholar.