The author: Michael Gasser
I teach in the School of Informatics and Computing and the Cognitive Science Program at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, USA. In my research I've worked on various problems related to language. I used to focus on how language is learned by people, specifically how this process relates to the rest of cognition: to memory, to categorization, to attention, and to perception. I built computational models of language learning; that is, I tried to understand how humans learn language by simulating some aspects of the process on a computer. The particular models that I worked with belong to the category known as neural networks because they are based loosely on how the brain works. There is a big debate in linguistics and other areas of cognitive science dealing with language on whether such models are powerful enough to handle all aspects of language, especially grammar, and my research tried show where they were and perhaps were not. Now I'm concerned with how the insights from studying language, especially studying it computationally and studying how people learn it, can guide us in building computational tools that will make it easier for people to find and evaluate information on the Internet. Together with my collaborators, I'm focusing on two kinds of tools. One will use machine translation to help translate documents into and out of languages that are currently under-represented on the Internet. The other will guide people in critical reading of texts on controversial texts by highlighting loaded words that may help to identify the writer's ideological bias. I enjoy studying languages, and I believe that studying a variety of languages has helped me to appreciate what theories of language have to accomplish. The languages I know best are Amharic, German, Spanish, Japanese, and French.
My teaching has been closely tied to my research. I've focused on developing courses that deal with intelligence, especially with the linguistic part of intelligence, and how to simulate it on a computer. One specific interest has been introducing the study of language to undergraduate and graduate students, including those who may not feel any particular attraction to the topic. I enjoy this because it gives me a chance to share the excitement I feel for language and because I think the scientific study of language has important insights to offer everyone.
You can find out more about me, including my life outside of work, on my webpage.