Research at Mudd: HEATlab

Three students and a professor standing in an outdoor hallway

HEAT lab members from left to right: Julianna, me, Yuki, and Prof. Jim.

One of my favorite things about Mudd is just how easy it is to get involved in research! I’ve done two summers of research in the computer science department so far and will be doing a third at the end of this semester – which I am very excited about. Typically, research done during the summer is a full-time paid commitment (ten weeks, eight hours per day). Research done during the semester is three to six hours per week and is for credit. My most recent summer research job resulted in an offer for a position during the school year as well, so I am just now finishing my work in HEATlab, or the lab for Human Experience & Agent Teamwork (if you think that acronym was very carefully crafted … yes. Many of the computer science labs have similarly chosen acronyms, from ALPAQA lab to LACE lab. I think it’s really cool!)

HEAT lab is focused on human and robot interaction within teams. My project, which I did in collaboration with several other Mudd students, looked specifically at improvisational teams, where plans could not be made beforehand. It was started the year before by a different group of Mudd student researchers, and we were expanding on their work. Over the summer, due to Covid, we were doing this remotely. There were some cool things about remote research – we met over Zoom every morning for an update/collaboration meeting and every afternoon for a board game break (we got very good at Hanabi). Because a lot of the work we were doing was with computational models and code, it was fairly easy to share back and forth. I have definitely enjoyed being in person during the semester- though collaboration is much easier when you are all in the same space!

Three students in front of a screen--the screen reads "motivation" and has a photo of a student with a robot

Me, Julianna, and Yuki presenting!

One of the big things that we were working on was two papers on the algorithm that we created. We submitted the first to the AAAI (Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence) Spring Symposium, and the second to ICAPS (International Conference on Automated Planning & Scheduling). ICAPS is not until this summer, and will be virtual, but this spring we got to present in person at the AAAI Spring Symposium! The symposium took place at Stanford, and was made up of many smaller themed workshops. In addition to presenting, we also got to watch the other presentations, which were really fascinating. While I definitely didn’t understand every part, it was interesting to see some of the real world applications of the theoretical models I had been learning about. Overall I had a lot of fun working in HEATlab.

This blog was written by Malia Morgan '23, Computer Science major, Springfield Missouri