News / Lewis wins MURI funding


Michael Lewis, Professor at SIS, will receive approximately $1.5 million in funding for two projects from the U.S. Department of Defense’s Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) program. The MURI program supports research projects of interest to the Department. Lewis, whose research interests involve human-computer interaction, will work with researchers from four other universities on a project to discover methods for observing how cultural differences may impact negotiation efforts. The results may be used to train military negotiators. For the second project, Lewis will also work with faculty at other universities to evaluate the benefits of a decentralized military information network.

The negotiation research project will help military personnel to better cooperate with people of different cultures. It is part of a larger project to understand the factors that lead to success or failure in negotiation and cooperation. Researchers from Carnegie Mellon, the University of Michigan, Georgetown and the University of Southern California will participate in the project. Lewis and the University of Pittsburgh team will develop a browser –based negotiation environment to better account for distance and language issues. The Pitt portion of this project is $600,000.

The second project will study the feasibility of a decentralized military information network and will involve researchers from Carnegie Mellon University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cornell, and George Mason University. The researchers hope to develop and evaluate a military communication system that will utilize a peer-to-peer network outside of the chain of command.  While this might allow soldiers and robots to communicate and react more efficiently to changing situations, there is the possibility that the decentralization might result in confusion for the troops.  Lewis and the Pitt team will evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the proposed network as it relates to how the teams of soldiers will interact with the communication system. The entire project is funded for $7.5 million; the Pitt portion will be nearly $1 million.

A Professor in the School of Information Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh, he received his Ph.D. and M.S. degrees from the Georgia Institute of Technology. His current research involves information fusion and human control of mixed-initiative systems with an emphasis on human control of robot and UAV teams. Before entering academia he worked applying human factors in the nuclear power industry as a Member of the Technical Staff at the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations, an Associate Scientist at the General Physics Corporation and Senior Human Factors Engineer for Iowa Electric Light and Power Company.

Lewis, who has been a member of the SIS faculty since 1987, came to Pitt after earning his Ph.D. in Psychology with a concentration in Engineering Psychology (Human Factors) from Georgia Tech. Lewis has designed, developed, and implemented a research program in Human Factors along with an evolving curriculum that keeps pace with the state-of-the-art. His research efforts led to the founding (with the late Dr. Korfhage) of Pitt’s Usability Laboratory in 1996 and the Virtual Theater (a virtual reality facility) in 2003.  Lewis’ research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, Office of Naval Research (ONR), Air Force Office of Scientific Research, Air Force Research Laboratory and the National Institute of Standards and Technology among others. Lewis has more than 125 publications to his credit, and he has developed widely-used research tools in virtual reality, robotics, and military simulation.