Cognitive & Information Sciences Ph.D. student David Vinson has been awarded a prestigious IBM Ph.D. Fellowship. The award supports David for one academic year, and an opportunity to be mentored by an IBM scientist and participate in IBM’s research community, all while supporting his computational and cognitive research here in the CIS Ph.D. program. A story about David’s award is now featured on the Graduate Division website. From the Division’s news post:

He and his advisor, Professor Rick Dale, entered and won the Yelp Dataset Challenge last year for their manipulation and analyses of a dataset of over 200,000 Yelp business reviews. Since then, they have continued to work with the Yelp dataset — which now includes 1.6 million reviews — investigating how language use is influenced by experiences, interests and social interactions.

They are currently examining social networks within the Yelp dataset, looking at friendship connections in thousands of networks to determine how social interactions relate to communication and cognitive processing.

“David is developing significant technical skills to wrestle with big datasets, and is programming both statistical models and simulations to test his ideas, which are inspired by hardcore theoretical cognitive science,” Dale said. “His project is illustrative of our program’s desire to push the interdisciplinary envelope and render new scientific insights through cutting-edge methods and theories.”

Vinson credits the faculty at UC Merced for giving him the tools and resources that have brought him to this point.

“I had other options for graduate school, but many of those options seemed to come prepackaged with a defined future, or to create only a specific type of graduate,” he said. “UC Merced has encouraged me to forge my own path and has provided an opportunity to expand and contrast my interests at my own pace.”

Read the full Graduate Division news item here.