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29 August 2020

Jason Grant, Tapia 2020 Student Posters/ACM Student Research Competition Chair

Jason Grant

Jason Grant is Assistant Professor of Computer Science, Middlebury College and the Tapia 2020 Student Posters and ACM Student Research Competition Chair.  We spent a little time speaking with Jason about his work and career and why all our Tapia attendees should attend the Poster Session this year.

Tell me about your background and where you grew up?

I was born and raised in Baltimore Maryland.  My mom works in higher education as an AVP of Human Resources and my dad was a director of IT.  I stayed in Baltimore until after I graduated from the Meyerhoff Program at the University of Maryland Baltimore County.

How did you become involved in Computer Science?

My dad would bring home computers to work on.  We had a computer lab in our basement.  I spent a lot of time watching over his shoulder and I grew more and more interested.  I would go to his office and check out the labs and server rooms.   I started working for a help desk in high school and decided to major in computer engineering.  At UMBC I was able to get a lot of exposure to different research programs through REU experiences and really enjoyed doing research. I always intended to go to graduate school and chose the University of Notre Dame because of my interest in biometrics and they were a good school for research.

While I was at the University of Notre Dame I did a teaching apprenticeship program.  My faculty mentor encouraged me to consider an academic career and the apprenticeship program inspired me to pursue a career in academia.  I wanted to go to a place where I felt teaching and research were equally valued.  I decided to go to a liberal arts college where there would be more emphasis on undergraduate teaching.  I chose Middlebury College.

What are the key projects you are working on today?

My biggest project is that I am chairing Middlebury College’s annual Nicholas R. Clifford Symposium of the Arts.   Each year they invite faculty to submit a theme for the conference.  My submission on the Rise of Big Data was accepted and I have been curating panels on Big Data and how it is used throughout various disciplines and mediums.

This summer I have also had two students working on a project evaluating basketball game tapes. We are seeking to answer questions such as “Can we use computers to automate the analysis of game video, identify highlights, and gather statistics and other high-level game analysis?”

I’m also gearing up to begin my 4th year of teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Our students are beginning to come back to campus so we are doing a lot of focusing on keeping everyone safe.

How did you become involved in the Tapia Conference?

My first Tapia was in 2011 in San Francisco.  Brian Blake who was a faculty member at Notre Dame got me involved.  I went on to participate in the 2016 Doctoral Consortium.   Last year I took two of my students from Middlebury.   I’ll be bringing even more this year with the conference being virtual.  We can bring students in a way we couldn’t before. 

What are you looking forward to at Tapia this year?  

I am looking forward to having more of my students enjoy the conference this year. I am also looking forward to being able to attend even more talks this year.  The sessions will be more accessible so I can also easily switch sessions.  

Why do you think it is important for people to attend and volunteer to judge the Poster Session?

Most computer science conferences focus on a single discipline, the poster session includes a wide range of undergraduate and graduate research. It is a great way to see what is going on in research in other disciplines. The work is amazing and it should be checked out. And with students creating videos it will be easy to see a lot of the poster presentations.

 People should volunteer to judge as a way to give back to our community.  It gives you an opportunity to mentor students and find young collaborators and future graduate students.  Industry judges can find the next generation of colleagues.