Meet SCI’s New Faculty: Erin Walker

Name: Erin Walker
Title: Associate Professor
Department: Computer Science

What are your research interests?
My research uses interdisciplinary methods to improve the design and implementation of educational technology, and to understand when and why it is effective. I am particularly pursuing projects that incorporate social and contextual adaptation into learning environments, including implementing a teachable robot for mathematics learning, using technology to support peers in giving help across different platforms, and developing an intelligent tutoring system to help parents and children read together. A second line of my work relates to the careful design of technology to facilitate the development of a finer-grained understanding of learning processes. For example, one project looks at how brain data and log data can be combined to infer a learner’s cognitive and motivational state. Overall, my work spans questions related to intelligent tutoring systems, computer-supported collaborative learning, human-robot interaction, and brain-computer interaction.

Why did you choose to come to SCI?
I think a school combining Computer Science, Information Science, and Library Science has the collective deep expertise needed to attack important real-world problems related to domains such as education, health, and sustainability. I am enjoying being part of a new, dynamic, and growing school, and to have the opportunity to shape the vision of the school. I have a joint appointment in the Learning Research and Development Center, and am also excited to be part of the bridge between the learning research happening at Pitt and the computing research.

How does your teaching/research align with SCI’s mission?
Much of my research relates to modeling, from designing digital environments that facilitate the modeling of learning processes to using artificial intelligence to assess these processes and provide adaptive support. Thus, I am very much in line with SCI’s vision of modeling the world. My deep expertise is in Human-Computer Interaction, which is a field that also spans Computer Science, Information Science, and Library Science. I excited to contribute to SCI’s multidisciplinary course offerings in that area.