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Debaleena Chattopadhyay honored as IUPUI Chancellor’s Scholar

April 25, 2016

For her outstanding achievements and excellence in research, Debaleena Chattopadhyay was named the Indiana University Graduate School 2016 IUPUI Chancellor’s Scholar at the 2016 IUPUI Honors Convocation.

Mid-air gestural interaction, the Internet of Things experience, trusted clinical alerts for physicians, and emotions elicited by computer-modeled characters—these are among the research projects Chattopadhyay undertook since she entered the Ph.D. program at the IU School of Informatics and Computing at IUPUI in 2011.

Her research is as prolific as it is diverse—Chattopadhyay published an inspiring number of peer-reviewed articles for conferences and journals during her time here.

How to make large screen displays easier to interact with through mid-air gestures is the focus of her dissertation work with Professor Davide Bolchini in the Human-Centered Computing department. In the Advanced Visualization Lab, they placed infrared sensors in front of displays, giving users the freedom to interact without having to hold a device or wear specific gear.

Chattopadhyay will defend her dissertation this summer before she joins the faculty at the University of Illinois at Chicago as a tenure-track assistant professor in the Computer Science department.

In another collaboration with Bolchini and the Regenstrief Institute at IUPUI, Chattopadhyay worked on incorporating trusted advice in drug-drug interaction alerts for helping physicians to avert possible adverse reactions with patients’ other medications before they prescribe something new.

Last summer, her research at Microsoft Research Cambridge in England explored how to lessen fragmented experiences within the Internet of Things. “Having connectivity is not a research problem anymore. The real problem is how to have a fluid experience,” she says.

“I come from computer science where everything is binary—it’s one or it’s zero,” Chattopadhyay says. She is fascinated by the intersection of that background and the cognitive psychology of human beings, “where everything is fuzzy.”

In her work with School of Informatics and Computing Professor Karl MacDorman, Chattopadhyay explored visual perceptions and emotional responses to computer-generated characters such as avatars—her specific focus in research about the uncanny valley—the phenomenon that causes aversion to computer-generated figures or humanoid robots that bear a near-identical resemblance to human beings.

Chattopadhyay empirically validated a mathematical model for predicting human emotions to variances in visual features, like eyes and noses. The model allowed her to ask fundamental questions surrounding why we react to what is “too human”—such as a fear of mortality.

“Intellectual stimulation is the reason why someone enters a Ph.D. program,” says Chattopadhyay. Ideas are actively nurtured at the School of Informatics and Computing and at IUPUI in general, she says. “It’s very rewarding to see people understanding and connecting to research on this campus.”

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Joanne Lovrinic