Schwartz receives prestigious NSF CAREER Award

Photo of Dr. Cris SchwartzDr. Cris Schwartz, assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Texas A&M University, has received the prestigious Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Schwartz received his CAREER award for his proposal, “Using Haptically Augmented Tactile Communication Methods to Foster the Inclusion of the Visually Impaired in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Professions.”

In his proposal Schwartz indicated that there are a large number of blind or otherwise visually impaired people in the United States who have the technical aptitude to contribute very substantially to our economy, but they face obstacles because of their disabilities. A large percentage of blind individuals are able to fully participate in the workforce in many areas due to the prevalence of Braille, however, many talented blind people are not able to enter STEM fields because of the substantial hurdles in using Braille in STEM education and professional practice.

Schwartz’s work will focus on enhancing the usefulness of Braille in communicating STEM-related information to allow blind individuals to participate more fully. To do this he will investigate the use of "secondary" tactile cues (haptics) integrated within Braille text to transform Braille into a more useable communication method for STEM information.

Schwartz joined the Department of Mechanical Engineering in 2006 and is a professionally licensed engineer. He received his Ph.D. from Iowa State University in 2006. Schwartz served as a senior research engineer at Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio from 1998-2003. His teaching areas include mechanics, statistics, tribology and engineering design. He has been awarded the Student Led Award for Teaching Excellence (SLATE) and the Peggy L. and Charles L. Brittan ’65 Teaching Award for Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching.

Schwartz’s research focuses primarily on friction and wear phenomena in polymers and biological systems, including orthopaedic implants, frictional skin injury, and the links between tactility and material surface properties.

NSF established the CAREER program to support junior faculty within the context of their overall career development, combining in a single program the support of research and education of the highest quality and in the broadest sense. Through the program, the NSF emphasizes the importance on the early development of academic careers dedicated to simulating the discovery process in which the excitement of research is enhanced by inspired teaching and enthusiastic learning.