Barbara Grosz researches ways to make computer systems more accessible and more useful for people of all ages. Her research has been fueled by two goals: to gain a better understanding of intelligent human behavior, and to build computer systems that operate in more intelligent ways. Barbara studies the ways people use natural languages such as English and Japanese to gain insights for developing computers that communicate more fluently and flexibly.
Barbara's research falls into these two sub-fields of artificial intelligence (AI): 1) Natural-language processing, which is the study of processes entailed in producing (speaking, writing) and understanding utterances in natural languages; (Barbara focuses on dialogue and intonation) 2) Collaborative planning, which studies the ways groups of people or computer systems coordinate their actions. Her AI research has a very practical goal: to develop better systems for human-computer communication and collaboration. Her work will lead to easier-to-use systems for human-computer communication whether they use natural languages, graphical interfaces, or menu systems and pointing devices.
Barbara does research and teaches computer science at Harvard University. She says, "One of the great attractions of being at a university is working with students; my research group includes both undergraduate and graduate students interested in building collaborative systems and improving methods for communication between people and computers."
Barbara received an A.B. in mathematics from Cornell University and a Ph.D. in computer science from the University of California, Berkeley. Her earliest career goals included teaching junior high school mathematics and dancing. Before joining the faculty at Harvard, Barbara was the director of the Natural Language Program at SRI International (a non-profit research institute in California) and co-founder of the Center for the Study of Language and Information. She was introduced to natural-language processing while working with Alan Kay at Xerox PARC on educational uses of computers.
Her work enables her to travel widely, meet fascinating people, and collaborate with scholars from around the world on difficult and interesting problems. Barbara tries to arrange an interesting hike whenever she goes someplace new, and has photographs of wildflowers covering most of the wall space in her house. She also enjoys swimming, canoeing, and folk-dancing.