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University Gazette

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

News in Brief for November 15, 2017

 Navigational hub connects campus innovators to key resources

Students, staff and faculty members with a novel idea for an entrepreneurial project or venture can find the resources they need to put it into action thanks to a new navigational hub on the Innovate Carolina website innovate.unc.edu.

The hub was designed to make it easier for everyone across campus to quickly explore more than 200 programs, services and resources at Carolina and throughout the local, regional and global community. Those resources include:

  • Entrepreneurship courses:Classes, workshops and conferences for students and faculty;
  • Funding opportunities:Awards, grants, fellowships, investments and venture capital;
  • Starting a venture:Incubators, accelerators and business services;
  • Workspaces:Labs, studios, makerspaces and team meeting areas; and
  • Competitions:Ways to earn prizes and promote your innovations.

Visitors to the site can also find news, events, reports and an impact dashboard with key metrics about the University’s innovation and entrepreneurship initiatives.

Benesch receives Zelda Fichandler Award

Benesch, producing artistic director of PlayMakers Repertory Company, has received the 2017 Zelda Fichandler Award from the Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation.

Named for a champion and pioneer of regional theater, the prestigious award recognizes outstanding creativity and artistry by directors and choreographers whose work is transforming the regional arts landscape.

Benesch is in her second season at PlayMakers, where she has directed acclaimed productions of Molly Smith Metzler’s The May Queen, Deborah Salem Smith’s Love Alone, John Logan’s RED, Sarah Ruhl’s In the Next Room, and Libby Appel’s adaptation of Three Sisters.

From 2005 to 2016 Benesh was the artistic director of the renowned Chautauqua Theater Company and Conservatory, presiding over the company’s transformation into one of the best summer theaters and most competitive summer training programs in the country.

Benesch said she was deeply honored to receive an award named for someone she was lucky enough to call her teacher and mentor. “Receiving this award in her name is that much more meaningful and a call to continue working in the spirit of her global curiosity, commitment to regional excellence, and belief in personal transformation through the arts—all of which have been career-long inspirations to me,” Benesch said.

PlayMakers is the first regional theater with two consecutive producing artistic directors to receive award. Joseph Haj won the award in 2014.

“Vivienne Benesch epitomizes the ideal choice for The Zelda Fichandler Award,” said Warner Shook, chair of the selection committee. “She is a mid-career artist working at the peak of her powers, as she has so readily demonstrated in both upstate New York and now in North Carolina with her insightful, thrilling work. I think Zelda would be beaming.”

Bansal receives DARPA Young Faculty Award

Mohit Bansal

Bansal, an assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science, has won the prestigious Young Faculty Award from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) for his work on natural language processing and machine learning.

Bansal was among a select group of 28 winners nationwide – and the second Carolina faculty member to receive the award. The prize was established in 2006 to identify rising research stars in junior faculty positions and provides them with funding, mentorship and contacts in the Department of Defense and industry.

The DARPA-YFA is a two-year award valued at up to $500,000, with the potential of receiving up to an additional $500,000 in funding in the third year.

Bansal has received two-year funding for his project, “Life-Long Learning: Dynamically Revising Neural Networks via Commonsense and Conversational Feedback.”

The award will support Bansal’s research on developing life-long learning based artificial intelligence models that dynamically revise their neural architecture, inspired by how humans continuously learn from feedback and adapt to their surroundings.

This is an innovative break from current static-architecture models that do not sufficiently self-correct or adapt to unexpected scenarios. These revisions will be based on real-time feedback from user-machine interaction and human-driven common-sense knowledge bases. The research could lead to more intelligent machine learning models, with potential groundbreaking improvements across the human-robot collaboration task spectrum.