Parsons receives first NSF CAREER award in Purdue’s Department of Computer Graphics Technology

Paul ParsonsPaul Parsons, assistant professor of computer graphics technology and the latest Purdue Polytechnic Institute faculty member to earn the National Science Foundation’s coveted Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) award, is the first CAREER awardee in Purdue Polytechnic's Department of Computer Graphics Technology.

The $524,222 CAREER award recognizes and supports early-career, pre-tenure faculty who have demonstrated the potential to serve as bold academic role models in research and education and who can lead ambitious advances in the mission of their department or organization. The five-year award is for a single investigator — in this case, Parsons — and is intended to blend the principal investigator’s role as both a scholar and an educator.

Parsons’ CAREER project will investigate the cognition of data visualization designers — how they think, work through problems, and develop solutions — and the kinds of knowledge they rely on while designing. The project also will study relationships between the research and practice communities, looking for ways to strengthen awareness, communication and knowledge sharing between them. Parsons expects that research findings will impact professional design practice and how he and his peers recommend curriculum content, structure their courses, and ultimately prepare students for successful careers.

“Alone, these research topics are not new, but the examination of their intersection is definitely unique,” explained Parsons. “I expect our insights to impact how we prepare Purdue students for the demands of real-world design practice.”

CAREER programs last five years, with funding released on an annual basis. Parsons is still in the planning phase of his project and hopes to develop a mix of diary studies, workshops, in-depth interviews and observational work as part of his data collection process.

“The opportunity to engage with real-world professional practitioners and study them as a form of scholarship is exciting,” said Parsons.

Past CAREER awardees in the Polytechnic Institute include:

  • Thomas Hacker, professor and department head, awarded in 2010 for work that developed ways to improve the efficiency and reliability of high-performance computing systems.
  • Alejandra Magana, W.C. Furnas Professor in Enterprise Excellence, awarded in 2015 for research on identifying ways to incorporate modeling and simulation practices into undergraduate engineering education.
  • Mo Rastgaar, associate professor, awarded in 2019 for work on steerable powered ankle-foot prostheses for increased mobility in amputees.
  • Byung-Cheol “B.C.” Min, associate professor and University faculty scholar, awarded in 2019 for research related to human-robot interaction and multi-robot systems.