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WSB’s Manzoor and Tong Receive American Family Funding Initiative Award

By Wisconsin School of Business

June 2, 2022

Wisconsin School of Business professors Emaad Manzoor and Jordan Tong are the recipients of an American Family Funding Initiative award from the American Family Insurance Data Science Institute at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

The award provides Manzoor, an assistant professor of operations and information management, and Tong, a Wisconsin Naming Partners Professor and an associate professor of operations and information management, with a one-year, $100,000 grant for their research that looks at expanding knowledge graphs with humans in the loop. (Within artificial intelligence, “knowledge graphs” are a way of encoding and representing information as a network, while having “humans in the loop” corresponds to the human collaboration or interaction with machines).

Per their winning proposal’s abstract, “Knowledge graphs encode human expertise to enhance the performance of machine learning systems in several domains. As new concepts emerge in a domain, knowledge graphs need to be expanded with new nodes. However, expanding knowledge graphs manually is infeasible at scale. In this work, we propose methods to automatically expand knowledge graphs with new nodes that are designed from the ground up to operate with humans in the loop.”

Manzoor and Tong were one of only nine teams across UW–Madison to receive the honor.

“We are excited about this research that, for the first time, accounts for the role of human feedback in the knowledge graph curation process,” Manzoor says. “We foresee a large impact of this work on business operations, content recommendations, and ad targeting, all of which benefit from the domain expertise encoded in knowledge graphs. We are happy that American Family Insurance shares our excitement and we appreciate their support.”

The American Family Funding Initiative was created in 2020 to foster groundbreaking research and to support UW–Madison faculty in the area of data science. As stated on the Initiative’s website, “Artificial intelligence (AI) and data science are becoming a core component of the insurance industry, motivated by the increasing availability of data, including masses of unstructured data, scalable cloud computing, exponential growth in computing power, new modeling tools, and the ongoing drive for operational efficiency and cost reduction.”

Manzoor was one of only three scholars worldwide to receive the 2022 Psychology of Technology Dissertation Award from the Psychology of Technology Institute for his work on persuasion in technology-mediated communication. His research avenues also include machine learning and online human behavior. In 2021, he was recognized as a rising star in data science by the University of Chicago.

Tong is a leading scholar on behavioral issues in operations and analytics. He holds editorial positions at top academic journals such as Management Science and Production & Operations Management. Tong helped launch WSB’s Master in Business Analytics program and served as its first academic co-director. He is a past recipient of WSB’s Gaumnitz Junior Faculty Research Award.