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Three junior faculty members recognized with major awards

Fabio Pellacini of computer science has recently been honored as a Sloan Research Fellow. Tanzeem Choudhury, also of computer science, and Petia Vlahovska of Thayer School of Engineering have both received CAREER awards from the National Science Foundation.

Fabio Pellacini

Sloan Research Fellow

Assistant Professor of Computer Science Fabio Pellacini was awarded a prestigious Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship in recognition of his contribution to computer science and to support his future research.


pellaciniFabio Pellacini
"I'm interested in computer graphics-how artists create images through computer simulations," says Pellacini. "The award will support my work to help make computer graphics programs more intuitive and easy to use."


The two-year fellowship will contribute to Pellacini's research in developing algorithms to manipulate the lights and materials in synthetic environments, trying to improve the time-consuming process of adjusting the appearance of objects.



The Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program at the National Science Foundation (NSF) recognizes and supports the activities of teacher/scholars early in their careers, and the recipients are often considered emerging leaders in their respective fields. Recipients are selected for career development plans that integrate research and teaching.

Other Dartmouth professors who have been recently honored with CAREER awards include:

Computer science

Devin Balkcom, Christopher Bailey-Kellogg, Amit Chakrabarti, Fabio Pellacini, and Sean Smith

Thayer School of Engineering

Reza Olfati-Saber

Physics and astronomy

Robert Caldwell, Kristina Lynch,
and Barrett Rogers


Robert Grubbs

Linguistics and cognitive science

David Peterson

Psychological and brain sciences

David Bucci

His research aims to speed up the graphic design process by creating user interfaces that are simple for artists to use and by developing algorithms that shorten the time it takes for computers to calculate images in animations.


"Appearance design is complex and time consuming. Setting the lights for one frame of a feature film animation takes days for an expert artist," says Pellacini. "Making the creation of synthetic images accessible to the largest possible audience is my long-term goal, as a scientist and educator."

Pellacini develops user interfaces that easily manipulate the direction of light hitting an object (altering the shadows and highlights at different times during an animation) and algorithms that quickly generate realistic lighting effects on the shiny surface of objects (taking into account all the complex reflections of other objects nearby).

He is one of 118 new fellows chosen this year from scores of young faculty at colleges and universities in the United States and Canada. Candidates are nominated by department heads or senior scholars in all fields of science, from biology and physics to mathematics and computer science.

According to the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation website, the research fellowships were established in 1955 and are awarded "in recognition of distinguished performance and a unique potential to make substantial contributions to their field."

Tanzeem Choudhury


Tanzeem Choudhury, assistant professor of computer science, was honored with an award from the Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program at the National Science Foundation (NSF). Choudhury works on developing computational techniques to better understand and predict human behavior and social interactions.


choudhuryTanzeem Choudhury
"I use sensors to make sense of people," says Choudhury, talking about using mobile sensors, tiny computers that can be embedded virtually anywhere, such as on a person or in cell phones.


The award will support Choudhury's research on developing new community-based techniques for capturing, recognizing, and interpreting human activities from body-worn sensors. She is building machine-learning methods that can collectively learn about behaviors within a group of people with minimal human supervision and can adapt to new activities and new environments.

"We are developing a community-guided learning paradigm, which leverages people's social ties and behavioral similarities," says Choudhury.

She reports that the research in human behavior modeling has the potential to transform community health assessment by collecting detailed and nuanced clinically relevant information continuously, inexpensively, and unobtrusively over long periods of time.

Choudhury will collaborate with medical researchers to evaluate the usefulness of the technology in measuring the degree of independence among the elderly and social interactions among high-functioning autistic children.

Petia Vlahovska


Petia Vlahovska, assistant professor of engineering sciences at Thayer School of Engineering, was also recently honored with an award from the Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program at the National Science Foundation (NSF).


vlahovskaPetia Vlahovska (Photo by Joseph Mehling '69)
Vlahovska's highly interdisciplinary work is aimed at understanding and mimicking the design of the biological cell. Her research combines engineering and biophysics as she looks into questions such as the link between the unusual mechanics of the red blood cell membrane and blood viscosity.


"My research advances fundamental knowledge in cell biomechanics, and it is helpful to biomedical applications such as targeted drug delivery," says Vlahovska. "One of the central issues we're now investigating involves the mechanisms of how a membrane is deformed by fluid or electrical stresses."

Her lab studies these problems through theoretical modeling, numerical simulations, and experimentation.

This award will also support her ongoing work in teaching and training the next generation of engineers, physicists, and biologists to effectively cooperate on problems that cut across these areas.


Questions or comments about this article? We welcome your feedback.

Last Updated: 3/27/09