Carnegie Mellon University
May 27, 2011

English Department Professors Receive Grants from Qatar National Research Fund

Four projects involving English Department faculty have received grants from the National Priorities Research Program (NPRP), the main funding program of Qatar National Research Fund.

Andreas Karatsolis, Assistant Teaching Professor of English and Associate Director of the Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence at Carnegie Mellon Qatar, was awarded $550,000 for a two-year project titled "Improving Professional Communication Skills through an Online Tutorial." The project proposes the design and implementation of an online tutorial that teaches the basic principles of technical writing and visual communication. It involves collaboration between researchers at Carnegie Mellon's campuses in Qatar and Pittsburgh. Co-principal investigators in Pittsburgh are Associate Professor of English Suguru Ishizaki, Associate Professor of Design Stacie Rohrbach, and Senior Associate Director of the Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence/Associate Research Professor of Psychology Marsha Lovett. A significant part of the evaluation and assessment of the tutorials will be done in international companies in Qatar.

Karatsolis also worked with another group of Carnegie Mellon Qatar professors on a three-year project titled "Advancing Arabic Language Learning in Qatar," which received $900,000 in funding from the NPRP. Led by Assistant Teaching Professor of Modern Languages Zeinab Ibrahim, the project focuses on technology-enhanced language learning for early elementary students in Qatar. In addition to Karatsolis, co-principal investigators include Assistant Teaching Professor of English Amal Al-Malki and Associate Teaching Professor of Information Systems Divakaran Liginlal.

In the same award cycle, Teaching Professor of English Dudley Reynolds from Carnegie Mellon Qatar, Zohreh Eslami from Texas A&M University, and Nancy Allen and Maha Cherif from Qatar University received a three-year NPRP grant for their project aimed at "Improving Reading Skills in the Middle School Science Classroom." Despite ambitious goals for educational achievement, international assessments indicate that Qatari students struggle when it comes to science. Since students in Qatar's public schools study math and science in English, the project hypothesizes that helping students to use more and better English reading strategies will improve their learning of science. Using a professional development strategy from Japan known as "Lesson Study," the team will work with Qatari science teachers to design materials that incorporate reading strategy instruction into science lessons.

"We're excited by this opportunity to work with Qatari students and teachers," Reynolds said. "We hope that what we learn about integrating science and language instruction will benefit English language learners around the world."

Associate Research Professor of Computer Science and Robotics Bernardine Dias, Assistant Teaching Professor of English Silvia Pessoa, and Associate Teaching Professor of Computer Science Yonina Cooper from Carnegie Mellon Qatar also received funding for their project, "Innovative Computing and Mobile Technology for Improving English Literacy Skills for Children and for Adults." The researchers plan to build on their past work in applying automated tutors and mobile phone games by creating a suite of intelligent tools and games that adults can use to improve their English literacy skills. They hope to use these tools to address the problem of low literacy among migrant workers, refugees, hearing impaired individuals, and other populations.

As a member of the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, Qatar National Research Fund (QNRF) aims to build human capital and improve education in Qatar by providing support to innovative, competitively-selected research projects.

 Andreas Karatsolis  Suguru Ishizaki  Amal Al-Malki  Dudley Reynolds  Silvia Pessoa

left to right: Andreas Karatsolis, Suguru Ishizaki, Amal Al-Malki, Dudley Reynolds, Silvia Pessoa