Stephen B. Gilbert

Associate Director
Virtual Reality Application Center /
Human Computer Interaction

Associate Professor
Industrial & Manufacturing Systems Engineering
Iowa State University

gilbert at iastate edu | 515.294.6782

Stephen B. Gilbert


The Apple ][+ whetted my appetite for computers in middle school, and after using 3D graphics to visualize data on SGIs in college, I was hooked. At Princeton I majored in civil engineering and operations research (aka solving giant story problems) with a minor in human computer interaction. Interesting projects included visualizing the hidden layer of a neural net, teaching one computer to play a driving video game running on another computer, and presenting archeological data in 3D after being the surveyor on a Cyprus dig.

I was intrigued by the way operations research experts gained intuition about solving a complex problem with large data sets after viewing a small slice of the data that illustrated the structure of the problem space. To study this further, I studied brain and cognitive sciences at MIT (focusing more on the cognitive side) under Whitman Richards. During this time, the web arrived, and I explored ways to use it for educational purposes while TA'ing several courses in the MIT Media Lab.

Next was a postdoc in the Center for Innovation in Product Development, an MIT center that partnered with Xerox PARC, Ford, GM, the Navy, and other companies. Knowledge management was hot, and I was interested in visiting with the partner companies to see how they handled organizational learning and training.

That interest, along with the dot-com boom, led me to join, an online university based in Chicago that aimed to offer an online degree program of premium quality. It was an exciting ride full of instructional design, creating a usability lab under Don Norman, debates about whether one can templatize or re-use learning objects, lots of politics, and periodic layoffs. UNext is now Cardean Learning Group, running Ellis College of NYIT.

After moving to Ames, Iowa in 2003, I started Clearsighted, Inc., an e-learning consultancy which offered clients instructional design, usability consulting, and intelligent tutoring systems (ITSs). Partnering with Carnegie Learning, Inc., the leader in using ITSs to teach mathematics, Clearsighted won NSF SBIR Phase I and Phase II grants to create better ITS authoring tools.

Since 2007, my main focus is now being Associate Director at ISU's Virtual Reality Applications Center and its Human-Computer Interaction program. I am also an Associate Professor in the Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering department.