eDream awards first Fiddler Innovation Fellowship

12.01.14 -

Earlier this year, Jerry Fiddler and his wife, Melissa Alden, announced their gift of $2 million in support of student and faculty interdisciplinary research initiatives through the Illinois Emerging Digital Research and Education in Arts Media (eDream) Institute at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA). As a part of this endowment, eDream at NCSA will provide awards to outstanding students and faculty at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, including graduate and undergraduate fellowships and scholarships.

In the spirit of the Jerry Fiddler Innovation Endowment, the first Fiddler Innovation Fellowship has been awarded to former NCSA SPIN student Austin Lin for his interdisciplinary studies, innovation, leadership, and creativity.

Lin has always had a passion for blending science with the arts, majoring in Theatrewith a concentration in Stage Management and minoring in Computer Science while at Illinois. It is this interdisciplinary drive that led him to apply for a SPIN internship with NCSA back in 2012. In fact, it was at the very first NCSA SPIN open house that Lin met and briefly spoke with Fiddler, who was giving a talk on his own interdisciplinary work and innovations.

Lin says he was searching for a way to integrate his two interests, technology and performing arts, and believed working with eDream would allow him to use his technical skills while leveraging his stage management background. Lin’s application to the SPIN program ultimately led to three semesters of working with eDream.

According to Donna Cox, director of NCSA’s Advanced Visualization Laboratory and eDream, when it came to who would be awarded the first Fiddler Innovation Fellowship, Austin Lin was the clear choice. “From the beginning of working with Austin, we realized he was highly motivated to change the field of the performing arts through technology,” Cox said. "And he has an extraordinary ability to harness and integrate a variety of technologies while working with diverse sets of people with interdisciplinary backgrounds.”

Lin was instrumental on a number of eDream projects during his internship—The Demo; NWS: 4’33”; and advising a senior-level Computer Science class on exploring audience interaction through mobile devices—experience he credits for his current successes.

“eDream inherently brings together artists and technologists, a marriage that is at times delicate,” he explains. “My work with eDream really prepared me to work in that gap between technical and non-technical collaborators, a skill that continues to serve me well in my current role.” Lin is currently the Operations Staff Assistant for Presidential Personnel at the White House, a position he has held since early 2014.

eDream has taken on several SPIN student interns for the 2014-2015 academic year, working on a variety of projects. Cox is hopeful one or more of these Illinois undergraduates will stand out as the next Fiddler Innovation Fellow.