One of the reasons students attend Penn is for access to faculty and research opportunities, yet few undergraduates take advantage of this opportunity. While classroom experience is essential, so is the opportunity to create new knowledge while examining the unknown. The Digital Media Design program is closely related to the Center for Human Modeling and Simulation, a Ph.D research lab at Penn (both are directed by Dr. Norman Badler). Over the past decade the two programs have created a symbiotic relationship wherein undergraduates and Ph.D students collaborate on research projects. The projects are usually (though not always) conceived by the Ph.D students, and their content is directed toward submission for publication to professional organizations, such as ACM (the Association for Computing Machinery), SIGGRAPH (the ACM Special Interest Group on Computer Graphics), and the Eurographics conference. While this asks that the DMD students make a considerable leap in intellectual depth, it also promises that their work has "real world" applications and significance. Additionally, if a project is published, undergraduates are listed as co-authors, not just contributors. In the past few years, six DMD students have had papers published in notable computer graphics academic conferences.
An unanticipated result of this relationship is that the projects are greatly improved by the combined talents of differently trained contributors. Our Ph.D students usually have backgrounds in computer science and math, and their research is often based upon those skills and their role in computer graphics. They are prepared and able to tackle subjects (and programming issues) that are somewhat beyond the scope of the average undergraduate. On the other hand, the undergraduates offer skills in the application of computer graphics (such as the creation and rendering of 3D models using commercial software), the aesthetic decisions employed in doing so, and an understanding of target audiences and the variety of ways in which to communicate ideas. The collaboration results in research that is cutting edge, mindful of its target audience, and aesthetically pleasing! We have had over twenty DMD students involved in research in the center, and considerable public and private funding directed specifically at such collaborations. DMD students seeking research experience are offered a rich array of choices in our program.
Thanks to a successful corporate partnership with SIG (Susquehanna International Group) and additional private donors, Penn Engineering is now home to a state-of-the-art computer graphics facility housing a huge motion capture studio and lab for special effects, animation and graphics research!
Recent Publications Featuring Undergraduate Students