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The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

Bringing machine learning to the classroom

Computer science professor Christian López receives NSF grant
The grant will allow professor Christian López to collaborate with students on his upcoming project. (Photo courtesy of Lafayette Communications)

Christian López, an assistant professor of computer science, received a prestigious research grant from the National Science Foundation last month. The $149,992 award will be used to further his research in gamification and machine learning.

“The intention of the project is to develop and test a simulation game-based system that personalizes and adapts to the user,” López said.

The grant was awarded as part of the Research on Emerging Technologies for Teaching and Learning program, a National Science Foundation program that funds research into emerging technologies for teaching STEM. López’s project particularly aims to use game-based technology to help students understand complex systems concepts, which are sometimes difficult to understand using traditional teaching methods, according to López.

López teaches a variety of courses pertaining to data and computer science. While he has researched machine learning for years, this is his first National Science Foundation grant. Previously, he received two other grants from the government of the Dominican Republic.

In addition to funding López’s research, the National Science Foundation grant will support at least three student researchers over the course of three years but does not limit the number of students or their length of involvement in the lab, according to López.

According to Frank Xia, the head of the computer science department, it is this student involvement that gives the National Science Foundation funding a dual purpose.

“Foremost, it’s going to boost professor Lopez’s research program,” Xia said. “It’s also going to help our students to work on a cutting edge research project and be able to work on cutting edge technology in machine learning, particularly on how to help STEM education, because that’s really pertinent to our liberal arts college.”

This grant also allows for partnerships with other universities. López will serve as co-principal investigator with engineering professors from Penn State and Carnegie Mellon University. Student researchers, too, will have the opportunity to collaborate with students from these institutions.

“Some of my students already collaborate with other students from other institutions, but these ones can most likely interact with PhD and masters students,” López said.

López has yet to hire any student researchers for this particular project. Lucy McShane ‘25, a student researcher studying with López, expressed gratitude for the experiences she’s had while conducting research with him.

“I’ve really enjoyed this experience. Professor Lopez has been so amazing to work with,” McShane said. “And I feel like I learned so much … he really takes into consideration your interests and your abilities.”

McShane expressed optimism at the continuation of student-professor research collaboration.

“No matter the professor, I think [research] is just an amazing experience to dive deeper in your field of study and something that you’re interested in,” McShane said.

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    Lori ZieglerSep 30, 2023 at 8:48 pm

    What an incredible opportunity for innovation!