Introducing Fellow NZer Michael Witbrock / Don’t Forget Helen / Who Remembers Anne?

Originally from Christchurch, Michael now lives just outside New York City. He graduated from Otago University in 1984 with a B.Sc. (Hons) degree in Psychology and received his PhD in Computer Science from Carnegie Mellon University. He’s now a distinguished research staff member in IBM Research AI, leading work on reasoning and the intersection of learning and reasoning.

Previously he Founded and acted as CEO at Curious Cat Company, building assistants that actually understand you and what you do, and was Vice President for Research at Cycorp, and CEO at Cycorp Europe, where he lead research in automated knowledge acquisition from text and dialogue, automated reasoning, and intelligent human-computer interaction.

Before that he was Principal Scientist at Terra Lycos, working on integrating statistical and knowledge based approaches to understanding web user behavior, a research scientist at Just Systems Pittsburgh Research Center, working on statistical text summarization, and a systems scientist at Carnegie Mellon on the Informedia spoken and video document information retrieval project.

His dissertation work at CMU was in the area of machine learning (with very early Deep Neural Networks) for speaker modelling. Dr Witbrock has frequently acted a an expert consultant to the European Commission in the area of human-computer collaboration for eGovernment and in text understanding, and was technical director of the FP7 LarKC project. He is author of numerous publications in areas ranging across neural networks, parallel computer architecture, multimedia information retrieval, web browser design, genetic design, computational linguistics and speech recognition and is a inventor on seven US patents.

He can be contacted at; be persistent if you’re a NZer. He gets a lot of email.


The movie My Year With Helen will be screened at 6pm in the Held Auditorium at Barnard College in NYC on February 23rd.

My Year With Helen is a feature length documentary by esteemed NZ director Gaylene Preston, who spent a year observing former Prime Minister Helen Clark’s bid for UN Secretary-General.

While we all know the eventual outcome, the film goes deep behind the scenes to reveal gender politics in the United Nations and is proving to be a galvanizing influence for women as well as a source of pride for New Zealanders. It also has moments of typically appealing kiwi humour, like the scenes with Helen looking after her father by putting 90 meals in his freezer.

The film has been selected for the Athena Film Festival, a prestigious festival of women’s films held annually at Barnard College.

Helen Clark and Gaylene Preston will be in attendance and will have a Q&A session after the screening. The Q&As at other places have proven lively, inspiring and stimulating events, with Helen saying things like “now that I’m free, I’m a dangerous woman”, revealing her inspirational and funny side.

More information can be found on the Facebook page

With reviews, images, and news stories on the website:
Tickets are available here


Fellow NZer Anne Audain was adopted as an infant and suffered through her younger years with bone deformities in both her feet. After successful reconstructive bone surgery at age 13, she joined a local athletic club and a running star was born! Through her career Anne set records and pioneered professional running for women. She has since been inducted into the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame, the USA Running Hall of Fame, and honored with a Member of the British Empire Medal from Queen Elizabeth II of England for her contributions to her sport worldwide.

More details here –

Author: GBA

Retired New Zealand/American/British citizen living in New York City.

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