About: Kalev H. Leetaru

Kalev H. Leetaru

Institute for the Study of Diplomacy
Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service
Georgetown University

Short Biographical Sketch

Kalev H. Leetaru is the Yahoo! Fellow in Residence of International Values, Communications Technology & the Global Internet at the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University in Washington, DC. Before joining Georgetown University, Kalev held the Irwin, Boyd Rayward, Josie Houchens, and University Fellowships at the University of Illinois Graduate School of Library and Information Science, where he was also Assistant Director for Text and Digital Media Analytics and Senior Research Scientist for Content Analysis at the Institute for Computing in the Humanities, Arts, and Social Science and Center Affiliate of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications.

His award-winning work centers on the application of high performance computing to grand challenge problems using news and open sources intelligence. He holds three US patents (cited by a combined 44 other issued US patents from companies including Amazon, Business Objects, Canon, Google, Hitachi, IBM, Microsoft, Motorola, and Oracle) and more than 50 University Invention Disclosures and has been an invited speaker, panelist, and discussant at venues including the Library of Congress, Harvard, Columbia, Stanford, and UC Berkeley, while his work has been profiled in venues as diverse as Nature, the New York Times, BBC, Discovery Channel, The Atlantic, Fortune Magazine, Columbia Journalism Review, MSNBC, Que Leer, La Stampa, US News & World Report, Politico, Huffington Post, Library Quarterly, AAPG Explorer, and the American Council on Education's The Presidency, along with media outlets in more than 100 countries. His 2011 "Culturomics 2.0" study was selected by The Economist as one of just five science discoveries deemed the most significant developments of 2011, by ReadWriteWeb as one of the "best of" 2011 and one of the "fundamental issues that continue to shape the Web", elected to the 2011 Netexplo 100, honoring the top 100 most "futuristic applications on the verge of science fiction,", and invited as a presentation at TEDxTallinn as an "idea worth spreading." His 2012 collaboration with supercomputer manufacturer SGI creating the first geographic historical visualization of Wikipedia's view of the world over the last two centuries earned the 2012 HPCWire Editor's Choice Award for "Best use of HPC in an 'edge HPC' application" and "represent the highest level of honor and recognition given to the thought leaders in the HPC community by their own during the most important supercomputing event of the year." At Supercomputing 2012 in a second partnership with SGI, he worked with the University of Illinois' CIGI group to debut the first ever realtime combined population, tone, and geographic analysis of the live Twitter Decahose, creating a realtime map of global dreams and fears. In November 2012 he was selected for the 2012 National Academies Keck Futures Initiative, The Informed Brain in a Digital World, which "brings together more than 100 of the nation's best and brightest researchers from academic, industrial, and government laboratories to ask questions about - and to discover interdisciplinary connections between - important areas of cutting-edge research." In September 2013 HPCWire noted he "is one of the foremost proponents in the emerging field of predictive supercomputing" and that "his research helped usher in the era of petascale humanities", while Der Spiegel called him "one of the superstars of the new discipline" of big data. In December 2013 he was named by Foreign Policy magazine as one of its Top 100 Global Thinkers of 2013, recognizing "the world's most exciting people ... who have made a measurable difference in politics, business, technology, the arts, the sciences, and more."

A History of Innovation

Kalev co-founded his first web company in 1995, becoming one of the early pioneers of the dot-com era before he had even entered high school. His first product line was a web authoring suite in the days when web pages were still coded by hand in HTML, moving into electronic copyright enforcement after selling off its authoring division. By the time he was a junior in high school, Kalev's company had established its own reseller program, with sales coming in from throughout the world. As a freshman at the University of Illinois, he was honored as the first-ever freshman to be awarded University Student Employee of the Year and over the course of his undergraduate and early graduate career amassed 3 US patents and over 50 University Invention Disclosures.

In 2000, Kalev joined the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), the home of the modern web browser, where he developed technologies across numerous disciplines, including ShadowLight-Mirage, a groundbreaking virtual reality rapid prototyping and design environment that was used by the University of Illinois Department of Architecture continuously for two and a half years, by the United States Army, and was showcased at a Chicago gallery opening. An accomplished photographer, he manages the largest single collection of University of Illinois imagery, with over 250,000 images that have been licensed more than 22,000 times, including wall-sized art and covers of magazines and textbooks. His undergraduate senior thesis documenting the physical history of the University has become one of the authoritative resources on the subject, containing more than 300 biographies and 80,000 pages of digitized material dating back to the institution's founding.

He helps lead the largest global event database in existance, founded the highest-volume microform digitization center at an academic institution, and founded the premier global news and intelligence monitoring service on climate change. His research team was a pioneer in web mining, online media monitoring, and "big data", working with Fortune 50 corporations to understand the value of online perception of their brands and industry and to survey and understand their marketplaces before "brand mining" or "big data" were terms.

Vita / Biosketch / Biography

My most recent curriculum vita/resume and a biography by the Kauffman Foundation are all available at the links below.

Media Images

Several images are available for members of the media to use when covering my work.