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April 1: Three Researchers Receive NSF Early Career Awards


Byron Spice                       

Kelli McElhinny

Chriss Swaney

Three Carnegie Mellon Researchers
Receive NSF Early Career Awards

PITTSBURGH—Three Carnegie Mellon University researchers - computer scientist Anind K. Dey, psychologist Erik Thiessen and biomedical engineer Stefan F. Zappe — have received the National Science Foundation's Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award, its most prestigious award for junior faculty.     

Dey, an assistant professor in the School of Computer Science's Human-Computer Interaction Institute, will receive a five-year, $500,000 award to make intelligent, interactive systems easier for people to understand and control.
These intelligent systems gather information about people's preferences and environment to aid with such tasks as route planning for car trips, making travel reservations and managing family schedules and activities. But they also can be intrusive and make irritating mistakes that could cause people to reject them. Dey's research team is creating a tool that will help system developers include features that will explain what the system is doing and give users the opportunity to control the system and the information it gathers about them.    

Thiessen, an assistant professor of psychology in Carnegie Mellon's College of Humanities and Social Sciences, received a five-year, $450,000 award to support his research on how infants acquire language skills.
Thiessen's work in this area focuses on how certain statistically related aspects of language — although complex — can actually help infants learn how to speak. He plans to use the CAREER funding to identify how predictable, inter-related aspects of language help infants overcome three challenges: figuring out where words begin and end; understanding how sound relates to meaning; and determining how to put words together in a grammatical order. The work could have implications for children with developmental delays and even adults attempting to learn a second language.
Zappe, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering, will use his five-year, $400,000 CAREER Award to develop MEMS-based fruit fly embryo injection technologies for high-throughput RNA interference screens.  The technologies will enable systematic studies on how genes function and diseases develop.