Campus News

Eric Chown Wins National Science Foundation CAREER Grant

Story posted May 08, 2001

Eric Chown, assistant professor of computer science at Bowdoin College, has won a $300,000 National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Grant. This prestigious five-year grant is in support of Chown's project "Computational Models of Space in Navigation and Other Domains."

Chown will use part of the grant to purchase eight high-performance robots to be used in both research and teaching. These robots will be integrated into several courses currently offered at Bowdoin, and will serve as the basis for a new course specifically about robotics.

In his research, Chown studies how people think spatially, and how computers can be programmed to "think" in similar ways. The goal is to build spatial models that increasingly come to match the capabilities and structure of the human spatial system.

In his first project for the grant he is examining how spatial thinking influences how people appreciate music. To test these ideas, he is building a computer system that he hopes will be able to parse (listen to) a musical piece and make judgments about it similar to those a person would make.

In teaching, the acquisition of new robots at Bowdoin will provide students with the opportunity to participate in advanced research and gain hands-on experience with robots. (Currently, Bowdoin has a less sophisticated class of small robots which students program to navigate a pattern on the floor.)

Simultaneously, a web resource will be constructed to provide support to other institutions wishing to add robots to their own curricula.

The National Science Foundation's CAREER grant recognizes and supports the early career-development activities of those teacher-scholars who are most likely to become the academic leaders of the 21st century. Successful applicants propose creative, integrative, and effective research and education plans that demonstrate activities exemplifying the process of continuous learning and the quest for new knowledge.

Eric Chown joined the Bowdoin faculty in 1998. He earned his B.A. and M.S. degrees from Northwestern University, and his Ph.D. at the University of Michigan, where he specialized in Artificial Intelligence. He has published articles in Behavioral and Brain Sciences, Adaptive Behavior, Cognitive Science, and Connection Science, as well as in the proceedings of the annual conferences on Simulation of Adaptive Behavior, on Machine Learning, and of the Cognitive Science Society.

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