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MSU prof leads fingerprint research

January 14, 2010

Computer science doctoral student Jung-Eun Lee runs an image retrieval experiment Thursday in the Pattern Recognition and Image Processing Laboratory, Room 3208 Engineering Building. Lee is one of several students Jain mentors.

Photo by Kat Petersen | The State News

In his 26 years at MSU, Anil Jain has won numerous awards, mentored countless students and received grants from organizations ranging from the National Institute of Justice to the FBI Biometric Center of Excellence.

Jain, a university distinguished professor in the departments of Computer Science and Engineering and Electrical and Computer Engineering, is known internationally for his achievements
in biometrics.

His work is centered around biometric recognition, which involves identifying a person based on his or her body characteristics, including fingerprints, the face and iris of the eye.

“When I first came to the lab, I didn’t realize how famous he was,” said West Virginia University professor Arun Ross, a former MSU doctoral student who worked with Jain. “Of course I knew him; I knew him from his papers and so on. But he never talks about those aspects. He focuses on his research.”

Jain describes his research as similar to “something you would see on CSI,” where victims are identified using fingerprints. Except the matching is not as easy, he said.

“If you look at a CSI show, you see they lift the fingerprint from the crime scene and try to match it,” Jain said. “You get the idea the matching is perfect, but it isn’t, and it needs research.”

Research conducted by Jain and his team, which is funded by the National Institute of Justice, looks to improve the accuracy of matching fingerprints taken from crime scenes with fingerprints stored in law enforcement databases.

Such work has come to national attention, with implications in border control and in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, said George Stockman, a computer science and engineering professor who has worked on Jain’s biometric research group since 1982. It has since become more sought after by government agencies.

“He had been working in fingerprints among other things, but he was an expert in fingerprints,” Stockman said. “And then, of course, (Sept. 11, 2001) happened and he was situated very well to help out agencies regarding the trend of fingerprint matching for identifying people.”

Jain has emerged as a leader in the research, Stockman said. Doctorate students come to work in the lab in droves and leave to work in companies distinguished in the field of biometrics, he said.

Ross, who still works with Jain on occasion, said his time working with the professor continues to influence him not only in his academic pursuits, but on a personal level.

“He should be a very busy person, and he is, but still he still calls me regularly and inquires about my family and so on,” Ross said. “He just doesn’t interact with his students merely as a professor, but also as a friend.”

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