July 31, 2020

Paul Taele, Instructional Assistant Professor at Texas A&M University

Paul Taele
Paule Taele

Paul Taele is an Instructional Assistant Professor and the Assistant Lab Director in the Sketch Recognition Lab at the Department of Computer Science and Engineering in Texas A&M University

Tell me about your background and where you grew up.

My parents are from American Samoa and moved to Los Angeles where I was born.  I was raised there until we moved to San Antonio.  My parents were both in the Air Force and built their careers there. 

How did you become involved in Computer science?

My father introduced me to science fiction movies and then I came across Star Trek: The Next Generation.  I saw all the cool computing technologies and mobile devices and wanted to learn more about futuristic tech.  In high school I had a counselor who encouraged me to focus on math and computer science.  I took core CS courses in High School and decided to go to college to pursue a double bachelor’s degree in Math and Computer Science at the University of Texas at Austin.

While I was in college I took courses in Artificial Intelligence (AI).  If you want to go into the more advanced computing careers you need more advanced degree. I pursue AI at the Master’s Level and also pursued Human Computer Interactions (HCI) and learned how to apply those to intelligent computer interfaces.  I was finally working with the futuristic interfaces I enjoyed in my youth.  I decided to pursue my PhD.

What are the key projects you are working on today?

Currently I am a visiting Assistant Professor and Lab Director.  My main project is a continuation of my Masters and PhD work, developing intelligent education applications for helping students of Japanese language studies so they can develop better writing and understanding of Kanji.   Using AI techniques a program on a tablet can provide intelligent instructor assessment of their writing and additional interactive visual feedback so the student can understand the assessment. 

Your panel is focused on the impact the Tapia Conference has had on your professional life.  Tell me about your first experience with Tapia.

My first Tapia was in 2011 in San Francisco. I learned about the conference from my dissertation advisor who felt it would be a great experience for me.  I was blown away by the number of diverse attendees and diverse speakers.  I had never been to a conference that had the energy and community I saw at Tapia.  I found that other people were interested in what I was working on.  Undergraduate students approached me wanting to know what I was doing, what my research was about and what it was like in computer science. It was nice to be an inspiration. I’ve tried to attend every Tapia since, I only missed last year in San Diego because I was in the middle of defending my dissertation.

Why should students attend the Tapia Conference this year?

The main reason to go is to be inspired and be able to connect.  The virtual aspect of Tapia this year will allow for many more unique opportunities to engage.  Often people go to a conference and feel more comfortable hanging out with their colleagues.  This year everyone will have an opportunity to branch out and connect with people beyond their institutions and regions.  Being virtual will give you more inspiration and a unique experience.  I encourage the more senior students to reach out and be an inspiration to the younger students.

Also, as a Native Pacific Islander I encourage all the other Native Pacific Islanders to connect with me. I’ve never met another one at a conference and I’d really like to connect.  Tapia is a great place to build your community.