University of Pittsburgh
April 6, 2005

Pitt Professor Wins Prestigious NSF CAREER Award

Brusilovsky says personalization is the key to more effective searching

PITTSBURGH—To make searching for information more effective, make it personal. That is the message from University of Pittsburgh faculty member and new National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award winner Peter Brusilovsky.

Brusilovsky, assistant professor in the University's School of Information Sciences (SIS), won the prestigious five-year, $440,000 award to fund his work in personalized information access. His research will focus on helping students search the variety of information in online tutorials, electronic textbooks, and digital libraries to find resources that match their individual goals, interests, and current knowledge. "Access is not the issue," said Brusilovsky. "Personalized access is."

"What we are finding out is that the classic paradigm of information retrieval is failing," said Brusilovsky. In the past, information provided by professionals was searched for by professionals, and both used the same language. "Nowadays, everyday people searching for information have different experiences, skills, and vocabularies," he said. "Therefore, results that just match the keywords you're searching for are not quite relevant."

Brusilovsky aims to develop more interactive and expressive systems to retrieve and filter information. In the immediate future, the educational systems he develops will directly influence the way undergraduate computer programming courses are taught in SIS. Eventually, Brusilovsky's work could be applied to the task of searching the Internet at large.

The inspiration for Brusilovsky's NSF proposal was his award-winning research on QuizGuide, an adaptive system that he and his colleagues developed to help students in a programming course select the self-assessment quizzes most relevant to them.

The system allowed students to explore more questions and work on them more persistently, and, as a result, learn more. For that research, Brusilovsky won an Outstanding Paper Award at the E-Learn 2004 conference.

The NSF CAREER Award supports the early career-development activities of those teacher-scholars who most effectively integrate research and education within the context of the mission of their organization. Past winners from SIS have included associate professor Marek Druzdzel and adjunct professor Sujata Banerjee.