Jeffrey Bigham, assistant professor of computer science at the University of Rochester, has been named one of the top 35 researchers in the world under the age of 35 by Technology Review, MIT's magazine on science and technology. Bigham will be featured along with the other 34 finalists, chosen from more than 300 nominees, in the magazine's Sept./Oct. issue, and will be recognized at MIT's Emerging Technologies Conference in September.
Bigham, who joined the University this summer, studies human-computer interactions to help people more effectively access useful information. His current research focuses on empowering people with blindness to collaboratively improve the accessibility of the internet without relying on others. His program TrailBlazer is a browser-based tool that monitors the web usage of blind and sighted users in order to recommend the web content a user is likely to want at a given moment.
"We're very proud to have Jeffrey with us," says Henry Kautz, chair of the Department of Computer Science. "His focus on making the web more accessible to people with blindness is a terrific example of how we can use computer science to make life better for everyone."
In addition to Trailblazer, Bigham is working on a software tool called WebAnywhere, which is a web-based screen reader that lets a person with blindness access the web from any computer without installing special screen-reading software. WebAnywhere is currently utilized by nearly 1,000 users each week across the world, many of whom would not otherwise have access to internet content. Bigham's project is open source, which means anyone can improve on it. A team in China recently created a Cantonese version of WebAnywhere, illustrating its global reach.
Bigham is also looking at ways to extract information from the "hidden web"—databases and similar caches of non-linked information that are not normally indexed by search engines. Before coming to Rochester, Bigham earned his bachelor's degree from Princeton in 2003, and his doctorate from the University of Washington in 2009.
Established in 1999, the TR35 list recognizes 35 outstanding innovators under the age of 35 each year whose "superb technical work holds great promise to shape the next decades." The awards span a wide range of fields, including biotechnology, materials, computer hardware, energy, transportation, and the Internet. Technology Review, Inc., is an independent media company owned by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.