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Computer scientist wins NSF CAREER grant

March 30, 2005

Photo of Edward LankThe College of Science and Engineering has reason to celebrate. For the second time in two years, a member of its faculty has won a National Science Foundation CAREER grant.

Edward Lank, assistant professor of computer science, was awarded the grant to further his pioneering work in the area of pen computing (the stylus to screen mode of entering and recording information onto a computer). Lank is only the second computer scientist to receive a CAREER grant in the California State University system.

"It's unreal," Lank says. "If you had told me three years ago that I would be the recipient of this grant, I would not have believed it. I know it's not a dream but it feels like one."

A native of Prince Edward Island in Canada, Lank has researched pen computing since he received his Ph.D in computer science from Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, in 2001. His overall research interest is in the area of human-computer interaction.

Lank, who collaborates in research with the Palo Alto Research Center and Microsoft's Bay Area research center, says that pen computing will require years of refinement. "Right now, the experience for the user is a lot like trying to enter information without a keyboard and just a single mouse button," he says. "We've had centuries to find out the best ways to use a pen and paper…it makes perfect sense that we are still struggling to make pen computers as usable." Lank, whose research is defined by careful observation of user needs and difficulties, has little doubt that someday pen computing will be "as fluid as a pen to paper."

Practical application for pen technology includes use by artists and architects as well as field scientists and emergency medical personnel, anyone who needs to enter illustrations or information but isn't able to use a typical computer with a keyboard.

Lank plans to put his $430,000 CAREER grant towards equipment and support of graduate and postgraduate student researchers. "The beauty of a university as large and diverse as SFSU is that it is easy to find ways to integrate one's research into the mandate of the school," Lank says.

Sheldon Axler, dean of the College of Science and Engineering, agrees and says that Lank's work reflects the University's emphasis on strong collaborative research. "He has an outstanding publication record, which has led to international recognition and frequent invitations to speak at major conferences," says Axler. "Here at SFSU, he excels in working with students and getting them involved in research."

The Faculty Early Career Development Grant Program is the National Science Foundation's most prestigious award for new faculty. The CAREER program recognizes and supports the early career-development activities of faculty who are most likely to become the academic leaders of the 21st Century. CAREER awardees are selected on the basis of creative career development plans that effectively integrate research and education within the context of the mission of their institution.

Lank's award this year follows the CAREER grant awarded to SFSU Assistant Professor Eric Hsu of the Mathematics Department last year.

"We are especially proud and gratified that faculty members in the SFSU College of Science and Engineering have won this prestigious award two years in a row," adds Axler.

-- Denize Springer


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Last modified March 30, 2005 by University Communications