Join the Lab!

Posted on 08/04/2017 | By: Rogelio E. Cardona-Rivera

I am (always) seeking motivated, curious, and dedicated students to join the Laboratory for Quantitative Experience Design. My areas of interest are computational psychology, artificial intelligence, game design, and interactive narrative. Please view the projects page to see specific examples of the kind of work I am interested in pursuing.

My priority at this time is to recruit Ph.D. students, although I encourage Masters and Undergraduate students interested in working with me to reach out. I am excited to work with students that have backgrounds in computer science, media, psychology, and design, but there are many other areas related to the work I do. The more important qualification is that you have excellent written and verbal communication skills. Currently, I only have the capacity to supervise students within the School of Computing and the Entertainment Arts and Engineering Program at the University of Utah. If you are unsure whether you are qualified, please get in touch.


Below are some notes that summarize (at a high level) what it's like working with me. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list of notes, but if you want to do something that's not covered here, let's talk.

Methodology

The emphasis that I give to my work is centered around design, for which an optimal solution may exist but may not be feasible to execute for a designer given their constraints. I like to emphasize that tradeoffs exist, and that we can demonstrate they exist through the use of computationally precise and cognition-centered experiments. The questions that I'm most interested in answering usually are answered with "it depends," and the real answer we provide should computationally model the most important ways in which "it depends."

Day-to-day work:

The kind of work that I do is varied, and transitively, the kind of work you will pursue could take many shapes and forms. It is more than likely that during the course of working with me you will do more than one of the following:

Building Systems

This involves developing systems that computationally encode theories we're interested in codifying. The theories will bear some relevance to some new kind of aesthetic, rhetorical, or interactive experience that they enable, and so I prefer that their encoding is developed in a way that can be integrated into a usable artifact (e.g. an App) or into something that can be used to develop said artifact (e.g. a game engine). Typically, this means you will be working with JavaScript, C#, C, C++, Lua, LISP/Scheme/Clojure, and/or Python.

Building Models

This involves developing a simplified / idealized representation of some narrative or game phenomenon that you wish to make assertions over. The theories will bear some relevance to state-transition systems that are constructed, searched, expanded, or pruned in a way that ultimately result in a predictable aesthetic, rhetorical, or interactive experience. Typically, this representation will be grounded in a logical formalism, encodable in logical modeling languages such as Answer Set Programming, Prolog, the Action Description Language, and/or the Planning Domain Definition Language.

Building Games

This involves building games! The games will embody the aesthetic, rhetorical, or interactive experience you wish to effect through your system or model. Through the process of building games we refine our understanding of existing game mechanics that afford specific dynamics, and can prototype entirely novel game mechanics. Typically, this will involve working with Twine, Unity3D, Unreal Engine, or Pen and Paper Prototypes.

Running Human Subjects Experiments

This involves empirically demonstrating that the theories you have codified into a system or a model actually achieve the effect you purport they achieve. If you work with me you will (at some point or another) fully develop an experiment protocol, which identifies the hypotheses, direct / indirect variables of interest, and methodological processes involved in testing your idea. The kinds of experiments you run will primarily be behavioral, but could involve working with biometric sensors like eye-trackers, galvanic skin response / heart-rate sensors, and even fMRI / fNIR equipment.


Venues I like

An important part of the work we do is communicating our results to the broader scientific community and beyond. Philosophically, I feel that public dissemination is important, in circles beyond just academic conferences. Here are some venues that I like:

Academic Conferences

  • AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Interactive Digital Entertainment (AIIDE)
  • International Conference on the Foundations of Digital Games (FDG)
  • The ACM SIGCHI Symposium on Computer-Human Interaction in Play (CHI Play)
  • The IEEE Conference on Computational Intelligence and Games (CIG)

Industry Trade-shows

  • The East Coast Games Conference (ECGC)
  • The Game Developers' Conference (GDC)
  • The Game UX Summit

Advising Style

My advising style is something you'll come to learn over the course of interactions with me, but here is the general structure that I'll adopt. In general, as you progress in your academic career you will transition from student to junior scholar. Accordingly, I'll strive to grant more independence until you're ready to operate wholly independently (which is marked by your obtaining the Ph.D. degree).

For the first half of the Ph.D. we will pursue highly structured interactions: weekly meetings, semester planning with check-ins, task assignments, and writing.

For the second half of the Ph.D. we will pursue more flexible interactions: weekly meetings (or meetings as-needed), you devising your own plans (and providing status updates), you teaching me things (shocking! I know!), and writing.

Notice that you'll always be writing. I am a believer of the idea that "writing is thinking."


"I've read all of the above and I would like to work with you."

If you're a Undergraduate / Masters / Ph.D. student at the University of Utah and you wish to work with me...

Please email me and be specific as to why you want to work with me. Referencing a
specific project you're interested in helps, but note: if your email to me could have been written by anyone, it is not specific enough and will likely be lost among all other emails. Several professors have great advice on how to email professors; go read those blurbs and then write to me. Please note that I typically prioritize funding Ph.D. students, and that I generally will not be able to fund you unless I've worked with you before (via an independent study or a course).

If you're not enrolled in the Ph.D. program, but you wish to work with me as a Ph.D. student...

As above, please email me and be specific as to why you want to work with me. Also, do state that you wish to work with me in your application materials when you apply to the Ph.D. program! Deadline is typically December 15th. If you're reading this and it's after the deadline, email me.

Otherwise...

I am unfortunately not able to commit to supervising students that are not at the University of Utah.

I am more than happy to collaborate with postdocs / other faculty members if I think there's a good fit. I am also willing to serve on dissertation committees as an external member. For all these kinds of inquiries, please follow the above guidelines on communicating with me (i.e. be specific, be concise, and be direct).

Acknowledgements

I'd like to thank Chris Martens, director of the POEM Lab at NC State University, for allowing me to borrow the structure of her POEM Lab recruitment talk for this post!

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