Dumais, Susan

From Left: Dan Russell, Marti Hearst, Ben Shneiderman, Susan Dumais, and Ed Chi at SIGCHI 2013 in Paris, France.
Dan Russell, Marti Hearst, Ben Shneiderman, Susan Dumais, and Ed Chi (left to right) at the ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in Paris, France, April 27 – May 2, 2013.

Susan Dumais and her colleagues at Bellcore (now Telcordia) developed the Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) system to address the vocabulary mismatch problem, which arises when there is a discrepancy between the words a searcher and the creator of an information item respectively use to describe the same thing. This situation is highlighted by the limited success of Boolean operators in sometimes amusing ways. Dumais’ work in LSI solved this problem by quantifying the contextual similarities of words in various texts and then extrapolating out to gauge the content of a particular work by analyzing the combined context of the words in it.

Susan Dumais and Don Norman at the CHI Academy Awards dinner on April 7, 2014 in Toronto, Canada.
Susan Dumais and Don Norman at the CHI Academy Awards dinner on April 7, 2014 in Toronto, Canada.

At Microsoft, Susan worked closely with several product groups to improve search systems and experiences used by millions of people every day, from desktop search in Windows to personalization in Web search.  Much of this research highlights how search systems can be improved by understanding, representing, and using contextual signals to improve results. Those signals might  include who is searching and what device they are using.  In all of her research, Susan takes an interdisciplinary and user-centered perspective in designing information systems and experiences.  Her contributions have helped build bridges between the human-computer interaction, information retrieval, and data science communities.

Dumais received the ACM SIGIR Salton Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2009 and the ACM Athena Lecturer Award in 2014. She was elected to the CHI Academy in 2005, as an ACM Fellow in 2006, as a Member of the National Academy of Engineering in 2009, and as a Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2015.

“My long history of encounters with Sue Dumais go back to her capable young days as a junior research psychologist working with Tom Landauer to her senior research leadership role at Microsoft.  Her deep and broad knowledge of the HCI and information retrieval research literature makes her a great source in any discussion. Her clear thinking about work and about her life choices make for satisfying dinner conversations.” – Ben Shneiderman



  • Ph.D. in Mathematical Psychology, Indiana University (1979)
  • B.A. in Psychology and Mathematics, Bates College (1975)


  • Adjunct Professor, University of Washington (2002 – Present)
  • Technical Fellow & Deputy Managing Director, Microsoft Research Lab, (1997 – Present)
  • Director, Bell Communications Research (Bellcore, now Telcordia) (1984 – 1997)
  • Member of Technical Staff, Bell Laboratories (1979 – 1984)


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