Granting Inspiration

Grant funding plays a huge role in supporting professors and students in meaningful collaboration. In addition to National Science Foundation grants, which are the largest share of external support for faculty research at Harvey Mudd, funding comes from other sources as well. All of it ends up performing the same function: creating meaningful, relevant and valuable research and experiential opportunities for our students and faculty.

Jim Boerkoel looks over the shoulder of a student looking at a computer monitor.
Jim Boerkoel and Emilia Reed ’17

“If I had to summarize my teaching philosophy using a single word, it would be ‘inspire,’” says Assistant Professor of Computer Science Jim Boerkoel. “A great teacher inspires a student to think big—to apply, extend and evaluate his or her ideas to address complex problems that he or she finds personally interesting or compelling—and in the process, develop his or her own unique passions.” This philosophy is prevalent among faculty at Harvey Mudd, as is an understanding that involvement of undergraduate students in collaborative research with faculty is a proven and powerful pedagogy.

Boerkoel, who runs the popular human experience and agent teamwork laboratory (HEATlab) at Harvey Mudd, was recently awarded a prestigious National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) grant for his project “CAREER: Robust and Reliable Multiagent Scheduling Under Uncertainty.” This work—related to developing applications such as autonomous driving, automated warehousing and personal robots—addresses fundamental limitations in how current planning systems handle real-world uncertainty. The grant will support summer research experiences for four students each year as well as the purchase of various equipment, including a new robot. It will also support the development of two new robotics courses at the College, and it helps establish Boerkoel as a national leader in undergraduate robotics and artificial intelligence research and education.

Beth Trushkowsky
Beth Trushkowsky

Professor of Computer Science Beth Trushkowsky received a $175,000 NSF grant in support of her project “CRII: III: RUI: Adaptive Query Processing for Crowd-Powered Database Systems.” The award will fund four students in a research experience across two summers and during the school year. Trushkowsky and her students hope to produce a query processing system that will empower users to ask more interesting questions about data than would be allowed by a traditional database system.

The grant funding also allows Trushkowsky to take students to the Richard Tapia Celebration for Diversity in Computing, where they can discuss their work on this project as well as network and be inspired by the community. “I’m excited,” she says. “For the last two years I was able to bring some students to this conference, but now I can bring more.”

David Vosburg and Tiffany Fong ’18

Associate Professor of Chemistry David Vosburg has been awarded an $8,000 research grant by Organic Syntheses Inc. that provides funding for him and a student co-worker to do research in the area of synthetic organic chemistry. Members of the Organic Syntheses Advisory Board awarded the grants to faculty from principally undergraduate institutions for research that includes the development of reliable methods for the synthesis of organic compounds. Vosburg was invited to apply for the grant, which is new this year, and was honored to be one of just four faculty selected to receive it. Students involved in the project will gain valuable research experience, not to mention the potential for publishing work based on the study.