About Me

Associate Professor
Dept. of Computer Science
Harvey Mudd College

Pronouns: she/her
Office: McGregor 323
Email: erin@cs.hmc.edu

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Curriculum Vitae

Professional Bio

I graduated from Oberlin College in 2004 with majors in Computer Science (highest honors) and Mathematics. Studying under my advisor Satinder Singh, I received my M.S. and Ph.D. at the University of Michigan, graduating in 2010. I was a founding member of the Department of Computer Science at Franklin & Marshall College where I helped to establish a new computer science major. I joined the faculty of Harvey Mudd College in 2019.

My overarching research interest is in identifying, understanding, and ideally overcoming computational barriers to progress in the creation of artificial agents that behave flexibly and competently in complex, high-dimensional environments. I approach these questions using tools in machine learning and artificial intelligence, especially in the area of reinforcement learning. In 2016 I received an NSF CAREER grant, which has funded recent work studying model-based reinforcement learning in the setting where the model is insufficient to capture the true dynamics of the environment.

I've taught multiple courses in the ML/AI space: Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and Reinforcement Learning. I've also enjoyed teaching more theoretical courses like Discrete Mathematics and Theoretical Foundations of Computer Science. I've taught first, second, and third semester introductory/intermediate computer science courses; I love working with students as they build their computational thinking skills and learn to grapple with more and more complex ideas and projects.

Unprofessional Bio

In high school I was in a juggling and magic trio called "The 3 Relatively Decent Jugglers;" I'm pretty rusty now, but still have some of those skills. I enjoy boardgames and video games. I'm transgender; I socially transitioned fairly recently in 2019 and I'm so much stronger, healthier, and happier as a result. I have a wife and son; we like to make each other laugh and eat delicious food from around the world. I play the ukulele. I have anxiety and depression; I manage my symptoms with therapy, medication, and a commitment to self-care and asking for help. I have a deep appreciation for a well-made sandwich; I worked as a sandwich maker all through college. When I was younger I did a lot of theater and studio art; these days I mostly apply those skills in my teaching. My experience is that, despite consisting of well-meaning individuals, academia is structurally unfair and even abusive at times; I do what I can to mitigate and change that. I believe that vulnerability, empathy, humility, and genuine commitment to shared purpose can go a long way most of the time. I believe that I have only a few pieces of the puzzle, but that without my pieces the puzzle would be incomplete.