Return to Meritorious Service to Yale University

2019 Meritorious Service Award – Brian Scassellati

Brian Scassellati, Ph.D.

A. Bartlett Giamatti Professor of Computer Science
Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science
Director of the NSF Expedition on Socially Assistive Robotics

Since joining the Yale faculty in 2001, Brian Scassellati has been an advocate and exemplar for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) at Yale. His acts of outreach within and beyond Yale, his innovative teaching of computer science, and his leadership in the fields of social and assistive robotics have strengthened Yale’s reputation as a premier center of scholarship, and have demonstrated the University’s commitment to community engagement.

Combining insights from computer science, electrical engineering, and developmental psychology, Dr. Scassellati’s work uses computation and robotics to evaluate models of how infants acquire social skills, thereby advancing the diagnosis and quantification of disorders of social development such as autism. As Director of the NSF’s “Expedition in Computing” on Socially Assistive Robotics, he led a multi-year effort that engaged researchers from Yale, MIT, the University of Southern California, Cornell, Stanford and Tufts to develop techniques to “enable the design, implementation, and evaluation of robots that encourage social, emotional, and cognitive growth in children, including those with social or cognitive deficits.” His work has been profiled in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Popular Science, NBC News, NPR, and elsewhere.

He has been active in the community, speaking at public events ranging from Yale’s “Science on Saturdays” program for New Haven area residents, to talks at public libraries, to webinars aimed at the autism community. He has reached out to Yale alumni through events like “Yale Explores,” an interdisciplinary program that examines topics of pressing societal interest through discussions with Yale faculty and Yale President Peter Salovey.

Dr. Scassellati helps Yale to recruit the next generation of scientists and engineers by participating in the Yale Engineering & Science Weekend (YES-W) program, which invites leading high school STEM students to the Yale campus to meet Yale faculty, students, and alumni and to learn about Yale as a premier location for STEM education. Students who matriculate at Yale have attested to Dr. Scassellati’s innovation and creativity as a teacher of computer science. He has taught a wide range of courses, including “Intelligent Robotics,” “Artificial Intelligence,” “Social Robotics,” and the extremely popular “CS50 Introduction to Computing and Programming.” CS50 is taught jointly with Harvard University and brings programming skills and literacy to students majoring in any subject and who often are new to coding. In addition to his work in the classroom, he has supervised and mentored dozens of undergraduate students, graduate students, and post-doctoral associates, many of whom have gone on to leading positions in academia and industry.

For nearly 20 years, Dr. Scassellati’s association with Yale University has had a strong, positive impact on the University’s mission and reputation. For this reason, the Yale Science and Engineering Association proudly presents Brian M. Scassellati, Ph.D. with the 2019 YSEA Award for Meritorious Service to Yale University.