177 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02115
Iris Seaman is a PhD student at Northeastern University’s College of Computer and Information Science, advised by Professor Jan-Willem van de Meent. Before coming to Northeastern, she earned her BS and MS from Brigham Young University, working with David Wingate. She also worked in the Brain and Cognitive Science Department at MIT, leading the special application of a goal inference project under Josh Tenenbaum and Vikash Mansinghka. Iris’ areas of research include Artificial Intelligence, Data Science, and Machine Learning, and her current research focuses on agents reasoning on the mental state of other agents; she is interested in furthering research that will allow machines to interact with humans in a way that will improve human life.
- BS and MS in Computer Science, Brigham Young University
- Hometown: Mission, TX
- Field of Study: Machine Learning
- PhD Advisor: Jan-Willem van de Meent
What are the specifics of your graduate education (thus far)?
I worked with David Wingate at Brigham Young University; I studied for an MS Computer Science at Brigham Young University from August of 2016 to June of 2018. For the summer of 2017, I was invited to work in the Brain and Cognitive Science Department at MIT under Josh Tenenbaum and Vikash Mansinghka in the Probabilistic Computing Project where I was mentored directly by PhD, EECS student Marco Cusumano-Towner. I was the lead of a special application of a goal inference project. Having set up a simple environment of a table and a number of objects laying on it, my objective in this project was to use Gen to simulate models and conduct inference to determine which object agents were reaching for in their early stages of movement. I developed WebGL tools to view 3D traces of the generative models while running inference over them. I designed robust generative models that described realistic reaching data, which was gathered from a Kinect. By applying nested SMC and MCMC methods, we provided an improved, efficient, and probabilistic approach for noisy realistic scenarios to infer likely goals for agents.
My extracurriculars can be seen at https://students.cs.byu.edu/~mirisr/research/
What are your research interests in a bit more detail? Is your current academic/research path what you always had in mind for yourself, or has it evolved somewhat? If so, how/why?
My current research problem centers on agents needing to reason about the mental state of other agents, including their beliefs, desires and goals — theory of mind — and making decisions based on that reasoning. Our research describes increasingly complex models of a UAV pursuing an intruder, and show that (1) there is a natural Bayesian formulation to reasoning about the uncertainty inherent in our estimate of another agent’s mental state, and that (2) probabilistic programming is a natural way to describe models that involve one agent reasoning about another agent, where the target agent uses complex primitives such as path planners and saliency maps to make decisions.
My research path has surprisingly taken me into new and exciting areas for innovation.
What’s one problem you’d like to solve with your research/work?
I’d like to help further the research that can one day give machines the ability to interact with humans in such a way that can improve human life.
What aspect of what you do is most interesting/fascinating to you? What aspects of your research (findings, angles, problems you’re solving) might surprise others?
The best part of being a researcher is implementing algorithms and designs that no one has before and seeing them perform well. I think it’s always interesting to people that as a computational researcher, my goal is to simulate human-like reasoning into machines.
What are your research/career goals, going forward?
I’m open to a variety of opportunities. My personal goal is to become a respected member of the research community.
Where did you grow up/spend the most defining years of your childhood/young adulthood?
I was born and raised in South Texas, USA.
Where did you study for your undergraduate degree? Any reason in particular behind your choice (a program you were excited about, a city you love, a researcher you wanted to work with)?
I graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Computer Science from Brigham Young University.