Mark Burstein
  • Parents: Harold M Burstein and Eunice (Kit) Burstein
  • Siblings: Susan, Michael, Matthew
  • Wife: Annie Lacourt
  • Children: Eugenie (Jennie) and Elena (Ellie) Lacourt
  • Sports: Tennis, running
  • Music: Mostly Jazz
  • Entertainment: Theater, Presidential Politics (same same)
  • Favorite TV: The Daily Show, Colbert Report

Early Personal History

I grew up in Waltham, Massachusetts, on the banks of the Charles River. My father, Harold, was an Antiquarian Book Dealer and active in local Democratic politics. My mother, Kit was founder and chair of the Waltham Conservation Commission, and deeply committed to fighting water polution.

I learned to program in FORTRAN (on punch cards) at the age of 13 in 1967 with the encouragement of Tom Lynch, then head of the Math Department for the Waltham Schools, and under the guidance of Terry Sweeney, then a young math teacher at the high school, and a good friend ever since.

While at Waltham High School I worked in the Chemistry lab of Prof. Henry Linschitz at Brandeis. There I learned to love research.

I was hooked on AI when I took Prof. Patrick Winston's AI course in the spring of 1973. Though I continued to major in Math, I took every opportunity to learn more about it, and was intrigued by the idea that we could get computers to understand language.

Family Life

I met my wife Annie (then a Grad Student in the Yale School of Drama) after I had departed Yale (thanks Larry!). We were married in 1988. I helped Annie start and build up Arabesque Software before the kids came: Jennie (1992) and Ellie (1995). All three now are at the center of what I do.

Local Politics

My parents both ran for local elected offices (Father: School Committee, mother: City Council). Neither won, but my sister has done both Waltham City Council and Waltham School Committee and my wife Annie has now been on the Arlington Board of Selectmen for seven years. We've both worked in congressional and other campaigns.

Professional Life - Many folks to thank.

I had many influences on me during my years at Yale, including Roger Schank, Robert Abelson, Drew McDermott, Chris Riesbeck, Wendy Lehnert, and fellow students Bob Wilensky, Jaime Carbonell, Jerry Dejong, Larry Birnbaum, Mike Liebowitz, Janet Kolodner, Kris Hammond, Greg Collins, Larry Hunter, Tom Dean, Yoav Shoham, Lewis Johnson, Eduard Hovy and the many, many visitors from the world of Cognitive Science that came to visit.

My thesis work on analogy was most influenced by interactions with Diedre Gentner and Allan Collins, then at BBN, and by Chris Riesbeck and Drew McDermott and Elliot Solloway, my primary advisors.

After joining BBN, I worked closely with many people, but Allan Collins, Glenn Abrett, Rich Shapiro, Ed Walker, Billy Salter, Bill Ferguson, Mike Dean, the late Ken Anderson, Dave Diller, Brett Benyo, Alice Mulvehill, Rusty Bobrow, Marshall Brinn, Bob Laddaga, David McDonald, Paul Robertson, Fusun Yaman and Karen Haigh were among those I had the pleasuer of working extensively with over my years there (sorry if I left your name out).

External collaborators figured prominently in my work over my years at BBN, because of all of the big projects I coordinated, but I am most grateful for having had the chance to work collaboratively for long periods with these folks on many projects: Drew McDermott, Steve Smith, Doug Smith, Katia Sycara, Manuela Veloso, Karen Myers, Marie DesJardins, Jim Hendler, Robert Goldman, Howie Schrobe, Tom Wagner. Others with whom I've worked with for multiple years on at least one project include: Jeff Bradshaw, Austin Tate, Sebastian Thrun, Geoff Gordon, Paul Cohen, Pat Langley, Yolanda Gil, David Martin, Sheila McIlraith, Jerry Hobbs, Tim Oates, Tim Finin, Dana Nau, Mike Cox, and David Musliner.