Richard Canevez

CIS 720 Seminar – A Talk on “Building an Identity between Phases of Intellectual Life: A Neophyte Scholar’s Perspective”

Please join us from 4:30-5:30pm for the CIS 720 seminar on Monday (April 5) for Dr. Richard Carnevez’s talk on “Building an Identity between Phases of Intellectual Life: A Neophyte Scholar’s Perspective.” Dr. Canevez was awarded a prestigious Computing Innovation fellowship from the Computing Community Consortium/NSF (


For early-stage academics such as myself, building a cohesive and coherent identity is tantamount to creating a piece of abstract art: an odd shape here, a strange looking square there, all placed within a canvas that somehow conveys an understandable message to a scholarly audience.

Or at least that’s the hope. In reality, many of us are left with these strange pieces, unsure of how they fit together to form that piece of abstract art. We feel less like Picasso and more like children cramming Legos into plastic bins.

This reflects the variegated nature of our lived experiences, as we as people resist simple categorization. This also reflects our young research agendas, as we as scholars explore the space to find what we are interested in, how we like to explore those interests, and how we see ourselves having real impact in the world.

In this talk, I will share my experiences on building an identity out of disparate parts. I will draw on my experiences in research transitioning from infrastructure and education to activism today, more broadly shifting my research orientation towards communication, as well as moving from a PhD program to a Postdoc, in order to frame a broader talk and discussion about the value (and challenges) of making art instead of piling Legos. I hope this talk will a) share some meaningful information about me; b) allow you to share a bit about yourselves with me too; and c) provide useful and meaningful content, especially for those of us early in our scholarly careers.


I am a newly-minted Postdoctoral Fellow through the National Science Foundation (NSF) and Computing Community Consortium (CCC)’s Computing Innovation Fellows grant, coming fresh out of my Ph.D. at Penn State University’s College of Information Sciences and Technology. My undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan [1] is in Philosophy, where I wanted to become a human rights lawyer. So naturally, I got distracted while working for the ACLU and instead got into artificial intelligence, and went to graduate schooling at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute to become a Natural Language Understanding engineer. I left school to co-found a tech start-up that eventually sold to Yahoo! Inc., where I spent time in Silicon Valley as a software engineer getting paid much better than I deserved. Desiring a return to my humanitarian interests, I departed software engineering for the life of a graduate student at Penn State. This latest journey took me to many interesting places, including the southern California deserts, rural Peruvian towns, and western Canadian forests. As I embark on my time at UH, I am thoroughly enjoying the stitching together of these phases into a single, coherent, scholarly identity.