2020-09-29: James Ecker (Computer Science PhD Student)

Hello WSDL Blog readers! My name is James (Jim/Jimmy) Ecker and I joined the Web Science and Digital Libraries (WS-DL) research group at Old Dominion University as a Ph.D student in Fall 2019. I decided to pursue a Ph.D to primarily refine my skills in research, academic writing, and presenting/communicating my work. I am being advised by Michael NelsonIn my time at ODU, I have taken CS891 - Emerging Technologies, where we developed our academic presentation skills with respect to presenting research on various emerging technologies, CS800 - Research Methods, where we further developed academic presentation and writing skills, and am currently taking CS895 - Web Archiving Forensics, where we are developing more applied research skills to establish whether information being shared on the internet is authentic.

I earned a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from Florida Southern College (FSC) in my hometown of Lakeland, Florida. There, I established the Florida Southern College Computer Science Club, formed and captained FSC's first ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest team, and was inducted into both the Omicron Delta Kappa (leadership) and Kappa Mu Epsilon (mathematics) honors societies.

Following undergrad I worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) as a Post-Baccalaureate intern in the High Performance Computing (HPC) division and as a Graduate Research Assistant in the Space Data Science and Systems group in the Intelligence and Space Research (ISR) division. My move from Post-Baccalaureate to GRA was precipitated by my acceptance to Georgia Tech to pursue a Master of Science in Computer Science, specializing in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. At the HPC division, I worked on applications for asset management and massive data movement as a service and systems characterization and integration. At ISR, I worked on Ground Support Equipment data processing and visualization for a joint DOE/USAF satellite system. My time at LANL enabled me to learn skills in supercomputing, spacecraft bus comms, packet handling, that I prefer red chili to green, and I swear at one point I could read streaming hexadecimal data but, alas, that skill has since faded.

Somewhere around the middle of my Masters at Georgia Tech, two big things happened: 1, my daughter Alice was born and, consequently - 2:  I applied to a NASA Pathways position for a Data Scientist with the Office of the Chief Information Officer at Langley Research Center. I was hired and I made the difficult choice to leave LANL for NASA and moved my family from New Mexico to Virginia. 

At OCIO I did a lot of work with the IBM Watson team, Natural Language Processing, and evangelized Deep Reinforcement Learning (a specific subtype of Machine Learning that I fell in love with during my Masters work) as a research avenue for autonomous systems. I eventually found my way to the Autonomy Incubator and worked as a principal investigator on the Autonomy Teaming and Trajectories for Complex Trusted Operational Reliability (ATTRACTOR) project. I now work at the Autonomous Integrated Systems Research Branch in the Research Division at Langley as a Research Computer Scientist.

My primary research interests lie at the intersection of Generative Models, Deep Reinforcement LearningNatural Language Processing, and Deep Learning (for computer vision) for building systems that can imagine interactions with their environment while exploring it, in order to facilitate neuro-cognitive learning and intrinsic simulations without the need for more computationally expensive external simulators. I believe there is an application to Web Science and Digital Libraries along these lines, using intrinsic generative simulation to reason over archived sites, detect unwanted changes, and simulate temporal translations all in a highly compressed representation of the archived instance itself.

I live in Hampton, VA with my beautiful wife and daughter. My personal interests include British motorcycles, collecting vintage computers, and going to Disney World.

Oh yeah, and Georgia Tech football

- Jim Ecker