June 13, 2005 —
Elaine Chew, assistant professor in the Epstein Department of Industrial and
Systems Engineering in the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, holder of the Viterbi
Early Career chair and a research area director in the university’s Integrated
Media Systems Center (IMSC), has won a 2004 Presidential Early Career Award for
Scientists and Engineers (PECASE).
Elaine Chew displays a spiral array, which is part of an interactive music visualization
program she created to let people 'see' music.
Chew, a well-known concert pianist, was recognized for her innovative work at
the intersection of computational mathematics and musical perception and cognition.
Her research, which is highly integrative, combines aspects of the performing
arts with computer science, modeling, human cognition and development of the Internet.
The research promises to make music more visual, understandable and accessible
The awards, presented today in a ceremony at the White House, are given annually
to approximately 60 of the finest junior researchers in science and engineering
the country. According to the President's Office of Science and Technology Policy,
which administers the awards, recipients possess “talents and potential that are
expected to make them leaders in 21st century science and technology.”
“We are absolutely delighted to hear of this award,” said USC Viterbi School
Dean Yannis Yortsos. “Elaine’s pioneering work in combining analytical modeling
with musical analysis is truly groundbreaking. I think it underscores the importance
of collaborative research in many fields today, and shows that creativity can
lead to important breakthroughs.”
"This award recognizes Elaine's achievements across many fields, and it honors
her creativity and leadership in interdisciplinary research,” added IMSC Director
Adam Clayton Powell III. “We are all thrilled for her.”
In addition to her engineering pursuits, Chew is a classical pianist who performs
at concerts and recitals around the world. She believes music is the ideal domain
in which to study communication, creativity, human perception and cognition.
“My technical training is in operations research, the science of decision-making,”
she said. “A performance is the result of a series of decisions, either conscious
or subconscious. Understand music and you begin to understand how the human mind
Presidential recognition of this work “reflects a maturing of the music research
community and suggests that the arts have an important place, even in our technologically
oriented society,” Chew said. “Not only does the award recognize the research
and teaching that I have been conducting, but it recognizes the work of my illustrious
mentors, including Jeanne Bamberger, George Dantzig and Georgia Perakis.”
Chew, who oversees IMSC’s research area in human performance engineering, becomes
the seventh engineer in USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering to receive the award.
The award is supported by nine federal agencies, including the National Science
Foundation. NSF contributes to the awards program through its own prestigious
Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) program. Junior faculty receiving one
of these grants become eligible for PECASE awards, but only about five percent
awardees receive the PECASE award annually.
National Science Foundation CAREER Award
Chew won an NSF CAREER award in 2004. The grant provided her with $500,000 over
five years to pursue her interests in developing analysis tools to evaluate musical
synchronizations in collaborative environments, especially those in development
at IMSC, that will allow musicians in different geographic locations to perform
together over the Internet.
The MIT graduate specializes in computational research in music cognition, music
information categorization and retrieval, music visualization, music performance
and performance rendering.
is best known for inventing the “spiral array” model for tonality, a geometric
model that combines aspects of interior point methods in operations research with
pitch structures in music theory. The model has spawned numerous algorithms for
automatic tonal recognition and segmentation. The Spiral Array Center of Effect
Generator (CEG) method is one of the fastest and most accurate algorithms for
Among her current projects are MuSA.RT — Music on the Spiral Array. Real Time
— an interactive music visualization system, and ESP — Expression Synthesis Project
— a driving interface that renders expressive performances from non-expressive
MIDI files. Both visualization systems were created using IMSC's Software Architecture
for Immersipresence (SAI) in collaboration with Professor Alexandre François and
engineering students Jie Liu and Aaron Yang.
Chew is also leading user studies in IMSC's Distributed Immersive Performance
(DIP) project, which is developing a system that will allow musicians to perform
together in real time over the Internet. She is developing metrics to measure
the psychophysical and perceptual effects of musical interaction over distance.
She hopes to discover the thresholds of usability for a broadband Internet 2 system
and to identify bottlenecks to remote collaborative environments.
Born in Buffalo, N.Y., Chew lived in Singapore most of her childhood, where she
received conservatory-level music training and diplomas, before returning to the
United States to study music, mathematics and engineering. She majored in music
and computational mathematics as an undergraduate at Stanford and earned her master’s
degree and Ph.D. in operations research at MIT.
<>White House photo of the event - Click Here