Brown University News Bureau

The Brown University News Bureau

1998-1999 index

Distributed September 30, 1998
Contact: Kristen Lans

New program

$1.7-million grant for cross-training graduate students in three areas

A three-year, $1.7-million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) will support graduate student training in interdisciplinary research on human and machine behavior, fund the development of new courses, and help acquire new computer and other research equipment.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Brown University has received a three-year, $1.7-million grant to train graduate students for research into how humans and machines compute information. The grant was announced today (Wednesday, Sept. 30, 1998) by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The grant establishes the Integrative Graduate Education and Research Training (IGERT) program for research that combines the disciplines of cognitive and linguistic sciences, applied mathematics and computer science. Through the program, students will be able to devise experiments to show how humans see the world, hear or make decisions. They will look at how mathematical models can depict these processes and study computational processes that may also carry out these tasks.

Brown is among 17 institutions to receive IGERT grants totaling $40.5 million over five years.

"We really see this as a way of enriching the educational experience here at Brown," said Mark E. Johnson, associate professor of cognitive and linguistic science and the grant's principal investigator. "We expect graduate students to be going off in new directions with their research."

Students are eligible for the program, titled "Learning and Action in the Face of Uncertainty: Cognitive, Computational and Statistical Approaches," when they are accepted to any of the three departments. Students accepted into the program will receive multiyear support packages covering tuition and a stipend.

The program will support the research of at least a dozen graduate students for the length of the grant or more students for shorter time periods, Johnson said. Whether or not they note an interest in the program on their application, graduate students will be considered for it by an admissions committee made up of representatives from all three departments.

The grant will also fund creation of a half-dozen new graduate-level courses geared toward interdisciplinary study, as well as new equipment - mainly computers - to carry out research. In addition, graduate student instruction will be enriched by two new post-doctoral scholars who perform interdisciplinary research, and a series of lectures by visiting scholars.

Each student in the program will be supervised by a committee of three faculty responsible for advising them on courses and research projects.

After three years, the NSF will consider a two-year, $1-million extension in funding for the Brown program. Additional funding will be contingent on available funds and progress of the project, officials for the federal agency said. The University is supporting the program by covering the cost of a portion of the students' tuition.

More details about the IGERT program are available from the National Science Foundation at