Donald Williamson, an assistant professor at the Luddy School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering, has been awarded a Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) grant from the National Science Foundation.
The program supports early career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education, and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization. Activities pursued by early career faculty are expected to build a firm foundation for a lifetime of leadership in integrating education and research. Williamson’s CAREER proposal focuses on the use of intelligent sound-processing systems that can help improve the quality of speech perception by users of hearing aids in noisy environments.
“This is a very prestigious award, and I’m excited that my peers see the value of this work,” Williamson said. “The research involved has the potential to be groundbreaking, and I’m hoping to solve one of the more challenging research questions. I strive to ensure that my work not only makes an academic impact but that it also impacts several communities.”
Williamson has been working on the “human-in-the-loop” problem in which computers and machine learning algorithms can learn directly from provided human feedback. Although it’s easy for people to learn from one another, Williamson is working to effectively teach machines to learn from people. Specifically, he proposes a change to the way researchers have been attacking the problem, namely by allowing end users to guide the learning process.
“This is a very challenging problem that can directly impact any application where human interaction is needed or can be helpful,” Williamson said. “I want to use this to help individuals with hearing impairments communicate better in sub-optimal environments. Their feedback can help refine a system that strives to remove unwanted background noise.”
Williamson’s award will include substantial educational and outreach efforts, especially with students at IU and in the larger Bloomington community, including introducing K-12 students to audio processing, computer programming, and machine learning.
“Earning a CAREER grant is an honor for any young researcher, and we’re thrilled Donald’s work has received such prestigious recognition,” said Kay Connelly, the associate dean for research at the Luddy School. “The faculty at the Luddy School are known for finding innovative solutions that will create a real-world impact, and Donald’s research has the potential to improve the quality of life for those who are suffering from hearing impairments.”