College of Engineering mourns the loss of faculty member Arzoo Katiyar


By Sarah Small

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Penn State College of Engineering community mourns the loss of Arzoo Katiyar, assistant professor of computer science and engineering. Katiyar, born Sept. 9, 1990, died on Sunday, May 30, in the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York at the age of 30.

Katiyar joined the college’s School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science faculty on Aug. 15, 2020. Her research was in natural language processing (NLP), with a particular interest in information extraction and structured prediction. Prior to joining Penn State, she spent a year as a postdoctoral researcher at ASAPP Inc. She received her doctorate in August 2019 in computer science with a focus on natural language processing at Cornell University, where she was advised by Claire Cardie, professor of computer science and information science. Before attending Cornell, she obtained an integrated bachelor and master of technology degree from IIT Kanpur in July 2013.

In her short time at Penn State, she established ties and collaborations with many faculty, including Becky Passonneau and Rui Zhang in computer science and engineering and Kenneth Huang, Shomir Wilson and Prasenjit Mitra in the College of Information Sciences and Technology. She was involved in all NLP activities, including planning the NLP colloquium, presenting research to NLP grad students and discussing curriculum. She co-advised two computer science and engineering master students with Huang. Katiyar also interacted with several of Mitra's students on dialog summarization, native language identification and classroom dialog analysis.

“I am shocked and saddened to learn about Arzoo’s passing,” said Kamesh Madduri, associate professor of computer science and engineering. “I enjoyed reading some of her recent papers last month and was looking forward to meeting her again in fall, but this was not to be. My condolences to her family and friends.”

His sentiments were echoed by many of the faculty members who did have an opportunity to interact with her. Passonneau emphasized that those who met her felt she was already an important member of the faculty.

“I helped recruit Arzoo to join me as the second computer science and engineering faculty member in the area of natural language processing, and I recall her second visit to campus particularly fondly,” Passonneau said. “On a sunny April day, we walked from Westgate to Old Main and back around beside the Nittany Lion Inn and then the golf course, discussing NLP research and teaching and the beauty of the campus. She clearly enjoyed the juxtaposition of the striking architecture of some of the newer buildings with the collegiate atmosphere of the older buildings, and I was sure she was imagining a very positive future here.”

Chita Das, department head and distinguished professor of computer science and engineering, recounted conversations he had with Katiyar.

“Arzoo joined the department in the fall of 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic and was teaching a class in remote mode when she was diagnosed with cancer and started treatment,” Das said. “During one of our phone calls in late November 2020, she told me, ‘Chita, I will complete my class even though I am weak after surgery.’ She was young, vibrant and was just starting her career in a critical area of data science. I still vividly remember when she came for the interview and told me during our meeting, ‘Chita, I want to be a faculty. That is my dream.’ This is a terrible loss for the department that only time can heal.”

Katiyar is survived by her mother, brother, and life partner, Prateek Sehgal.


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