R. Benjamin Knapp, senior lecturer and leader of the Music, Sensors, and Emotion research group at Queen's University in Belfast, Northern Ireland, has been named founding director of the new Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology, which is administered through the Center of the Arts at Virginia Tech.

The announcement was made by Virginia Tech Senior Vice President and Provost Mark McNamee. Knapp will also have a joint appointment as professor in Virginia Tech College of Engineering’s Department of Computer Science. Knapp will assume his new position on Oct. 1, 2011.

“Taking the helm of any new endeavor requires a special type of leader,” said McNamee. “Due to its transdisciplinary emphasis, [the institute] is an especially complex initiative. Ben’s experience -- across engineering and music, in both academia and industry -- makes him uniquely qualified to lead this effort.”

Knapp has led the Music, Sensors, and Emotion research group, part of the Sonic Arts Research Centre at Queen’s University, since 2006. For more than 20 years, he has been working to create meaningful links between human-computer interaction, universal design, and various forms of creativity. His research on human-computer interaction has focused on the development and design of user-interfaces and software that allow both composers and performers to augment the physical control of a musical instrument with direct sensory interaction. He holds twelve patents and is the co-inventor of the BioMuse system, which enables artists to use gesture, cognition, and emotional state to interact with audio and video media.

In previous positions, Knapp has served as a Fulbright Senior Specialist at University College, Dublin, and chief technology officer of the Technology Research for Independent Living Centre. As the director of technology at MOTO Development Group in San Francisco, Calif., he managed teams of engineers and designers developing human-computer interaction systems for companies such as Sony, Microsoft, and Logitech, as well as a universally accessible interface for the Experience Music Project Museum in Seattle, Wash. 

He co-founded BioControl Systems, a company that develops mobile bioelectric measurement devices for artistic interaction. Knapp has also served as professor and chair of the Department of Computer, Information, and Systems Engineering at San Jose State University. He earned a doctorate and master’s degrees in electrical engineering from Stanford University and a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from North Carolina State University.

“The institute is a major component of the Center for the Arts, which seeks to serve a wide range of people by engaging them in new arts experiences, and giving access to the creative process,” said Ruth Waalkes, executive director, Center for the Arts. “Ben will be a tremendous colleague and resource to all of us working to enhance the presence and practice of the arts here at Virginia Tech.”

Focused on the intersection of the arts, applied science, and learning, the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology will contribute to society through programs that promote creativity, critical thinking, and life-long learning. It will provide an innovative environment within which to conduct and apply transdisciplinary, collaborative research that will enhance learning in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade and higher education environments. The targeted research and scholarship areas include: creative and critical thinking skills; learning advancement, especially in math, science, social studies, and language arts; and innovation of transdisciplinary educational experiences.

"Creativity and critical thinking form the core of artistic endeavor, fundamental scientific discovery, and strategic development,” said Knapp. “I am thrilled to be joining the Virginia Tech team of multidisciplinary researchers that will push the frontier of creativity in all levels of education, in all types of human expression, and in all forms of innovation.”

The institute will be housed within and be a part of the Center for the Arts at Virginia Tech when it opens in late 2013. The Center for the Arts’ mission is to transform lives through exploration and engagement with the arts and creative process. As the cornerstone of Virginia Tech’s comprehensive arts initiative, the Center for the Arts is dedicated to learning, discovery, and engagement. At the center’s core is the belief that the arts can improve the human experience; and that through a diverse range of programs audiences, artists, faculty, staff, students of all ages, and communities can experience significant growth and development.

A stakeholders group for Virginia Tech's Institute of Creativity, Arts, and Technology is composed of Ruth Waalkes, chair; Richard Benson, dean, College of Engineering; Lay Nam Chang, dean, College of Science; Jack Davis, dean, College of Architecture and Urban Studies; Karen DePauw, vice president and dean, graduate education; Sue Ott Rowlands, dean, College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences; and Robert Walters, vice president for research.



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