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René Vidal was appointed the Penn Integrates Knowledge University Professor at the University of Pennsylvania (Photo from Penn Today).

René Vidal, a global leader in data science, has been appointed a Penn Integrates Knowledge Professor, President Liz Magill and Interim Provost Beth Winkelstein announced Wednesday.

Vidal will serve as the Rachleff University Professor at Penn with joint appointments in the Department of Radiology in the Perelman School of Medicine and the Department of Electrical and Systems Engineering in the School of Engineering and Applied Science.

The Penn Integrates Knowledge program, launched by former Penn President Amy Gutmann in 2005, aims to recruit faculty whose work integrates knowledge from different academic disciplines. Penn Integrates Knowledge professors hold appointments in at least two Penn schools and use their positions to work at the intersection of multiple fields. 

“René Vidal is an undisputed world leader in deploying data science, engineering, and medical innovation to advance the frontiers of machine learning and health care,” Magill told Penn Today. “We’re excited to have him here.”

Vidal’s research focuses on the development of algorithms to analyze complex datasets and the mathematical foundations of deep learning, as well as its applications in fields like biomedical data science. His lab has created new technologies for different biomedical applications, including face and object recognition and tracking blood cells in holographic images.

“Professor Vidal’s research — bringing together methods from medicine, engineering, computer science, and data science — demonstrates the power of solutions that cross traditional disciplinary and intellectual boundaries to tangibly change people’s lives around the world,” Winkelstein said to Penn Today. 

Vidal is the Inaugural Director of the Mathematical Institute for Data Science, which brings together experts to develop principles to analyze and interpret large, complex datasets across different fields. Prior to his appointment at Penn, he served as the Herschel Seder Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Johns Hopkins University since 2004. 

Vidal has received the 2021 McCluskey Award of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Computer Society, a Sloan Research Fellowship, and a National Science Foundation CAREER Award, among many other honors. 

He earned a Ph.D. and an M.S. in electrical engineering and computer science from the University of California, Berkeley, as well as a M.S. in engineering and B.S. in industrial engineering from the Catholic University of Chile. 

“René Vidal’s pioneering work exemplifies the core commitments of our work at Penn,” Winkelstein said. “Our innovative faculty and students are forging the creative new ideas and ambitious, multi-disciplinary solutions that shape the future.”