Campus News in Brief

Cassell, graduate students recognized

Cassell named HCII director

Randal Bryant, the dean of the School of Computer Science, has announced the appointment of Justine Cassell as the new director of the school’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute (HCII). Cassell will hold the position beginning Aug. 1, 2010.

Cassell is currently the director of the Center for Technology and Social Behavior at Northwestern University. Cassell is a professor in the School of Communication and the McCormack School of Engineering and Applied Science, as well as graduate director of the technology and social behavior Ph.D. program at Northwestern.

Cassell’s research currently focuses on computer systems that interact with people in ways that humans might.

She is credited with creating the first virtual human that is capable of communicating using both verbal language and nonverbal actions, called the Embodied Conversational Agent.

More recently, Cassell has used the agent to research the role that technology can play as a virtual peer for children, particularly those learning a language.

In conjunction with this language study, Cassell has also researched online conversation and interaction among young people, specifically how such conversation enhances or impairs self-esteem, self-efficacy, and sense of community.

Graduate research honored

Carnegie Mellon’s Graduate Student Appreciation Week was held from April 5 through April 9, during which Carnegie Mellon graduate students were recognized for their contributions.Specific honors included this year’s Graduate Student Teaching and Graduate Student Service Award winners, Benjamin Jantzen and Chad Ellis, respectively.

Jantzen, a fifth-year Ph.D. student in the philosophy department, was recognized for his academic talent and dedication to teaching. Ellis, a Ph.D. candidate in the chemistry department who served as the 2009 vice president of external affairs for Carnegie Mellon’s Graduate Student Assembly, was this year’s recipient of the Graduate Student Service Award. On the national level, Ellis helped to limit the visa problems that many international graduate students face, even taking his case to Congress.

Several students will also be honored for their research as winners of a competition titled “ ‘Where in the World?’ Global Impacts of Research.” Rebecca Mayer of the engineering and public policy (EPP) department; Jon Kowalski of EPP; and Lini Fu, a student in the Heinz College’s Master of Public Policy and Management program, will be honored for their international research efforts.