Mount Holyoke College’s Heather Pon-Barry, Clare Boothe Luce Assistant Professor of Computer Science, has been honored by the National Science Foundation with a CAREER award for excellence in research and teaching. Working at the intersection of computer science, psychology, linguistics, statistics and other areas, Pon-Barry aims to develop educational robots that will be able to interpret non-semantic parts of speech such as loudness, intonation, and timing to sustain conversational dialogue, not just answer stand-alone questions.
Heather Pon-Barry, Clare Boothe Luce Assistant Professor of Computer Science, has received the National Science Foundation’s CAREER award, the most esteemed award for early-career faculty.
Recipients of the CAREER award demonstrate both the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and the ability to lead advances in the mission of their organization.
“I was excited and proud,” said Pon-Barry, who learned in December that she had been selected for the award. “I put in a tremendous amount of time and energy in preparing my CAREER proposal, and wrote the majority of it while caring for my 3-month old baby.”
The CAREER award brings Pon-Barry an anticipated funding total of more than $500,000 over five years. Her research focuses on improving the capacity of robots to converse and collaborate with students in STEM learning. Ultimately she hopes to develop a socially intelligent robot tutor who engages students one-on-one through interaction, conversation and questions.