Gershenson to join Watson College faculty as SUNY EIP professor
Research to focus on using artificial intelligence for improving the healthcare system
The SUNY Empire Innovation Program (EIP) supports the recruitment and retention of faculty with strong track records of research accomplishments. EIP faculty are recognized leaders in their fields for outstanding research, scholarly achievements, high-impact publications and significant external funding.
As part of an EIP award from SUNY, Binghamton University’s Thomas J. Watson College of Engineering and Applied Science seeks to hire three professors with expertise in artificial intelligence for improving health outcomes and the healthcare system.
The first of these new hires is Carlos Gershenson, currently a professor at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México in Mexico City who will join Watson College’s Department of Systems Science and Industrial Engineering this fall. A second hire, to be announced soon, also will start in the fall, and a search is underway for the third position.
“Dr. Gershenson will be an excellent addition to the faculty here at Watson College,” Dean and SUNY Distinguished Professor Krishnaswami “Hari” Srihari said. “As the U.S. population ages, healthcare will continue to be a critical issue that we must address, and systems science is an important tool that can improve how our medical professionals and hospitals deliver life-saving care.”
SSIE Chair and SUNY Distinguished Professor Mohammad Khasawneh agreed: “The academic community is already very familiar with Dr. Gershenson, given his prolific publication and citation records, and we are overjoyed to have him joining our team.
“Artificial intelligence has greatly helped to increase our understanding of different problems in healthcare that were previously very difficult to comprehend. The potential benefits of such AI applications in healthcare — and by extension, benefit to all in our population — are staggering. In addition to healthcare, his contributions to the use of AI to address social challenges is indeed noteworthy. We are excited to welcome Dr. Gershenson and bear witness to his future work to address a wide range of social challenges in healthcare and beyond.”
Throughout his academic career, Gershenson has utilized computer science, evolutionary systems, and complex systems science to address healthcare, transportation, governance, education, cybersecurity and more. Unlocking answers often means transdisciplinary collaborations that try combinations of ideas in new ways.
“Both artificial intelligence and complex systems have their roots in cybernetics and systems research,” Gershenson said. “One of the first researchers in cybernetics, Arturo Rosenblueth, said in the 1940s that the challenges they were facing back in the day were complex enough that no one discipline would be able to solve them.
“That approach is more valid and even more pressing today. Just look at the pandemic — if you work only with epidemiologists, you will fail at trying to find a good solution. You need to collaborate with computer scientists who handle data and with economists who know what might be the impacts of different measures that can be taken. Sociologists and psychologists can tell you how people will react to different restrictions or other measures that you might try.”
Gershenson approaches research from a practical point of view as well: “I’m aware of my limitations, so to try to fill those gaps, I seek people who are good at the things that I’m not good at. When I join a team, I try to see what I can contribute. Division of labor makes sense, and a diverse team will be better than any of its members.”
Gershenson earned his PhD at the Centrum Leo Apostel of the Vrije Universiteit in Belgium and also serves as a visiting researcher at the Santa Fe Institute in New Mexico. He is the editor-in-chief of Complexity Digest, an associate editor for the journal Complexity and a member of the board of advisors for Scientific American.
He has received numerous awards, including a Google Research Award in Latin America and the Audi Urban Future Award. He is a member of the Mexican Academy of Sciences and the Mexican Academy of Informatics. He has more than 150 scientific publications in books, journals and conference proceedings, which have been cited more than 6,700 times.
In addition to his academic career, he has worked in consulting, software and web development, scientific communications and journalism.
While artificial intelligence is a tool that can be applied almost anywhere — and Watson College researchers are exploring facets of AI research — Gershenson feels that improving our tangled medical system has a special incentive.
“Healthcare is one of the areas that affects us all. If you’re alive, then you should care about your health!” he said with a laugh. “It’s also motivating to do research that might benefit other people and help improve their quality of life.”
Gershenson learned about the opportunity to come to Binghamton from current SSIE faculty members who read his published research, saw him at professional conferences and collaborated with him on research projects.
“I am extremely glad to be able to bring Carlos to Binghamton, and especially to the systems science program,” said Professor Hiroki Sayama. “I have known him and his work for quite some time. He is an internationally renowned scientist in the field of complex systems and AI with innovative applications to healthcare, public health, transportation and other socio-technical problems. At Binghamton, he will take our reputation and productivity to the next level.”
Luis M. Rocha, the George J. Klir Professor of Systems Science, added: “Dr. Gershenson is one of the few complex systems scientists with training in systems science, and with a research program that bridges the traditions of the field with current approaches in data science and computational modeling. He is an ideal fit to enhance both the tradition and the future of the systems science program at Binghamton. I am delighted he is joining us and look forward to collaborating with him and others.”
Although he won’t be at Binghamton until later this year, Gershenson is already planning his collaborations with his soon-to-be colleagues and students, and how he can help Watson College attract more funding.
“I will strive to contribute to the graduate program in systems science. I see that the University manages to recruit very talented students, so I think I can help in that direction, too,” he said. “Collaborations within and beyond the University also will be very useful to maximize impact.”