International Contributions to the LN Research Agenda

Currently in the US, there are ongoing and urgent discussions around immigration, with the federal government taking significant new actions to regulate who can come in to the country. Students that are considering working with me in the context of the Liquid Narrative group might be interested to understand how our research agenda is connected to and impacted by international scholarship. The science that I do in my group has historically depended critically on work advanced by graduate students from other countries who work with me as supervisor on their Ph.D. dissertations.

My group’s engagement with scientists from other countries isn’t unique. It’s the norm in every scientific field and is reflected in every lab I know here in the US. Advances in science move forward at the rate they do in part because the intellectual challenges afforded by scientific problems are accessible in equal degree to people from every country. There’s no national distinction made in the run-time complexity of an algorithm. Or in the expressive requirements of a computational model. Computer science is beautifully hard in a way that makes the discovery of algorithms agnostic when it comes to country of origin. We’re amazingly fortuate that things work this way. If US scientists were the only ones able to work on a class of problems, advances there would slow to a fraction of their potential pace.

My current students are enrolled both at the University of Utah and at NC State University, so the environments at both of these places have particular import for the way that I can design my research program. I’m proud of the quick and public responses to questions around international access to US universities made by both (Utah and NCSU). Their clear statements about the value of their respective institutions’ students, staff and faculty who come from outside the US comes out of a clear understanding of the missions they support, and of the role of all people in expanding our knowledge of the world we live in.

Looking past broad instituional statements, though, I’m prouder still of the remarkable international colleagues I’ve been so lucky to have worked with. In my lab at NC State, two international doctoral students, Adam Amos-Binks and Markus Eger, are making significant advances in knowledge representation and reasoning around plan-based story structure. Together, they’ve already published 9 peer-reviewed papers (the peer-review process for evaluation of research results is the gold standard of scientific review in computing and other sciences). Beyond my current team, almost half of the men and women who have obtained Ph.D.s from my group came to work with me from outside the United States. Professors Wei Zhang, Arnav Jhala, Yun-Gyung Cheong, Byung-Chull Bae and Julio Bahamon all did groundbreaking research for their dissertations. Their work has been published in the top journals in their field and widely cited by our research community. Together, these scholars have published more than 185 peer-reviewed scientific papers and their work has been cited by other scientists’ research over 1,650 times. Without exception, these scientists have all gone on to hold positions in outstanding academic institutions both in the US and in their home countries. Dr. Camille Barot, who worked for two years in my lab as a research scientist, published four papers on breakthrough work that she directed, adding to the seven that she published as a graduate student at the Université de Technologie de Compiègne.

I couldn’t be more proud of the advances to science that these friends of mine have made and continue to make, both through their research results and through the growing number of new scientists that they train.

Like scientists everywhere, the LN group functions by design within a global community of scholars. In that community, we are committed to openness and inclusivity as essential elements of progress. I train my graduate students to work with these same values. They graduate from my lab with a charge to apply these values by illuminating them in their classes, making them the framing for the research they do on their own and with collaborators, and advancing them to others with such clarity that they can’t be ignored.