MSU Researcher Awarded Prestigious National Science Foundation CAREER Award to Advance Virtual Reality Neuroscience Research

April 12, 2024

Adam Jones, an assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at Mississippi State University, has been selected to receive a Faculty Early Career Development Award from the National Science Foundation.

The prestigious CAREER Award provides $625,000 in funding over five years to support Jones' innovative research using virtual reality to advance the understanding of spatial vision and the human brain. His project, titled "A Neuro-Ophthalmic Approach to Virtual Reality Research," aims to leverage cutting-edge virtual reality technology to study how the brain processes 3D space.

Jones said he received notification of the award’s recommendation around Christmas, making it an excellent holiday for him and his family. He continued to say that this award not only supports but accelerates his long-term scientific goals.

“I am ecstatic and very grateful to receive this award,” he said. “Being recognized by organizations like the National Science Foundation and Mississippi State is very validating and gives me confidence that this exciting research is worth pursuing.”

The funding will allow Jones and his students to conduct pioneering studies using techniques like eye tracking, neuroimaging, and psychophysical experiments. One of the project's key goals is to determine if the brain treats virtual experiences like real-world ones. He plans to use the funding to support student researchers and pursue innovative questions at the intersection of computer science, neuroscience, and ophthalmology.

Of his project Jones explained, "We use virtual reality to understand what's going on inside your head. Our main focus is spatial vision - how people see and encode 3D space to act within it." This is one of the main motivations of his virtual and extended reality laboratory, the High Fidelity Virtual Environments Lab (Hi5 Lab).

Jones continued by saying the democratization of virtual reality has lowered barriers to entry and attracted talented and enthusiastic students to his lab. He noted, "We're at a really cool stage right now with VR technology. I think neuroscience-oriented applications, in particular, will benefit tremendously from its use."

The award, which is given out annually, will allow Jones and his team to make groundbreaking discoveries that could potentially transform fields such as education, training, medicine, and more.

The National Science Foundation's (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program is one of the highest honors bestowed by the NSF in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of their organizations' missions.

As the NSF works to promote the progress of science, Jones and his team at MSU will be making groundbreaking discoveries with the potential to advance science, technology and society for years to come. This award exemplifies the NSF's commitment to investing in the next generation of scientific leaders.

The CAREER award recipients receive five years of funding for their research endeavors. Jones joins the list of several College of Engineering faculty members who have earned the award. Recent recipients include Bo Tang, Jean Mohammadi-Aragh, Ali Gurbuz, Wenmeng “Meg” Tian, Neeraj Rai, Mehmet Kurum, Tanmay Bhowmik, and Maxwell Young.

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By Camille Carskadon