Ph.D. Student Eric Corbett Receives Microsoft Grant

By Michael Pearson

Eric Corbett, a Ph.D. student in Digital Media in the School of Literature, Media, and Communication, has received a $25,000 grant from Microsoft to help complete his dissertation on the role of trust and technology in local government.

Corbett was one of 11 Ph.D. students from the United States and Canada chosen by Microsoft for the grant program out of more than 200 applicants, according to the company.

“My research is open-ended and exploratory so the dissertation grant gives me much-needed flexibility,” Corbett said, adding it will allow him to hire software developers, buy materials, and travel to conferences.

In a blog post announcing the awards on June 20, 2018, the company said the grants are meant “to widen the narrow pipeline of women, African-Americans, American Indians, Latinos, Pacific Islanders, and those with disabilities who earn PhDs in computer science or related fields.”

“These awards are given to students in the ‘last mile; of their Ph.D.s, where a little money can push them over the finish line by helping them to complete their dissertation research,” Meredith Ringel Morris, principal researcher and research manager at Microsoft, wrote in the post.

Corbett is seeking to understand how trust can inform the design of technology used in community engagement by local governments. As part of his research, he expects to produce a design framework meant to further that goal.

Corbett recently received an honorable mention from organizers of the ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems for his paper co-authored by Christopher Le Dantec, an associate professor in the School of Literature, Media, and Communication, which is a unit of the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts.

In addition to the grant, Corbett will also receive an all-expense paid trip to a research conference at Microsoft headquarters in Richmond, Washington, where he will be able to present his research and meet with researchers in his field.

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