Garrett Morris and Kyle Rector of Computer Science earn prestigious NSF CAREER awards

Morris’s funded project will improve software reliability and programmer productivity; Rector’s will help make virtual reality accessible for people with vision impairments
Monday, March 15, 2021

Garrett Morris, UIowa
Garrett Morris

The National Science Foundation announced that two University of Iowa professors of computer science have been named recipients of CAREER grants, the NSF’s most prestigious research award for early-career faculty in the sciences. The highly competitive awards are given to scientists who show exceptional promise for a productive and innovative academic career that integrates education and research while advancing their discipline.

Garrett Morris and Kyle Rector, both assistant professors in the Department of Computer Science, will use their CAREER funding to advance projects that expand the boundaries of thought and possibility in their field.

Kyle Rector, UIowa
Kyle Rector

Sara Sanders, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said the awards are a sign of the UI’s strengths in computer science, as well as a harbinger of exciting times to come.

“Professor Morris and Professor Rector are outstanding researchers and educators, and the NSF's recognition of their work and of our computer science program is well deserved,” Sanders said. “Our younger faculty will one day be national and international leaders in their disciplines, and Dr. Morris’s and Dr. Rector’s CAREER awards show Iowa’s promise as a destination university in the years ahead.”

Morris’s and Rector’s projects—improving software and virtual reality, respectively—and the funding for them are vital. However, the NSF CAREER awards are about more than one project, recognizing Morris’s and Rector’s potential for academic excellence and leadership as their careers develop.

The NSF describes CAREER recipients as “junior faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization.” Receiving the NSF CAREER award makes Morris and Rector eligible for the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), awarded by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Garrett Morris joined the Iowa faculty in the fall of 2020. He focuses his research on the foundations of programming, orhow we construct programs and how we reason about them,” as he writes on his personal website. A co-director of the Computational Logic Center, Morris earned his PhD at Portland State University and completed a post-doctoral program at the University of Edinburgh before his appointment at Iowa.

Morris’s funded CAREER project is titled, “CAREER: Extensibility in Theory and Practice,” for which he has been awarded $524,616 over a five-year period. The study will investigate modularity and reuse in both high-level functional programs and low-level and systems programs.

Kyle Rector joined the faculty in 2016, after completing her PhD at the University of Washington. Her research specialty is human-computer interaction (HCI) and accessibility, with the goal of using computing technology to enhance quality of life for people with disabilities.

Rector’s study is titled, “CAREER: Supporting Interaction with Dynamic Virtual Reality Experiences for People with Visual Impairments.” The project will look at ways to help people with visual impairments understand and act on virtual reality environments that have moving targets, so that they can utilize VR in education, training, rehabilitation, tourism, and other domains. Rector was awarded $550,000 over five years for the study.

The Department of Computer Science is a unit of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

The University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences offers about 70 majors across the humanities; fine, performing and literary arts; natural and mathematical sciences; social and behavioral sciences; and communication disciplines. About 15,000 undergraduate and nearly 2,000 graduate students study each year in the college’s 37 departments, led by faculty at the forefront of teaching and research in their disciplines. The college teaches all Iowa undergraduates through the college's general education program, CLAS CORE. About 80 percent of all Iowa undergraduates begin their academic journey in CLAS. The college confers about 60 percent of the university's bachelor's degrees each academic year.