Patrick Doyle
Personal:  Biographical Information

Very few things happen at the right time, and the rest do not happen at all. The conscientious historian will correct these defects.
-- Herodotus

Perceptive readers will no doubt question the value of placing one's biography on a Web page. After all, there can't be many people on Earth who honestly care about my dog's name, my favorite color, or that embarrassing "Superman" incident when I was 5. However, since the perceptive readers are off perusing The Economist or The Times Literary Supplement, we won't bother them and they won't bother us.

I started out as a child...

I was born in Bay City, Michigan, a town about a hundred miles north of Detroit. For those of you with right hands, Bay City is located in the crook between the thumb and the index finger.

Although my given name, Patrick Owen Doyle, is entirely Irish, my ancestry is more mixed, with Polish, German, French and Irish, and some English and German thrown in for good measure. You'll be excited to learn that I have French Canadian ancestors who helped to found Detroit in the 1600's, though I don't harbor any resentment toward them because of it.

My salad days

I spent my childhood in Bay City. It's a quiet, mid-sized town, and it was a great place to grow up. It may have been unremarkable, but it was steeped in those traditional Midwestern values of practicality and understatement that make Garrison Keillor so funny. I remember it fondly.

As a child, I was precocious (like the telephone, I've become less remarkable as I've gotten older). I picked up a scholastic bent from my parents, and my interests were in books, school, and eventually computers. They tell me that I was a good-natured, happy child, polite to strangers, and kind to animals; I always did my homework, ate my Brussels sprouts, went to bed on time, washed behind my ears...frankly I don't understand what was wrong with me. This period was also the beginning of a crippling lack of social skills that has persisted to this day.

Some illustrative facts about my childhood: bowling was a popular pastime even for the cool crowd at my high school; my favorite event of the year was the library's book sale; while my sister begged to be allowed to drive the car, my parents had to pester me to use it (Why? I can walk to the library!); Munger, one of Bay City's satellite towns, is best known for its yearly Potato Festival.

The University of Michigan, 1990-1994: Bright college days

I started at the University of Michigan in the fall of 1990. At the time, I was thinking about degrees in several fields: classics, medieval history, computer science, mathematics, or physics. I was an eclectic and voracious reader when I was a child (I still am), and both the sciences and the humanities held strong attractions. I was ambivalent about my degree, because at that time my chosen career was college professor, and any field that teaches college courses eventually needs to hire professors to teach them, so I felt I was set no matter which way I went.

(I had a very short list of ambitions while I was growing up. I never wanted to be a fireman, for example. The first thing I can remember wanting to be was a librarian. After that, an Egyptologist, a computer programmer since they didn't call them "software engineers" at that point, and then I pretty quickly settled on professor. I mean, come on; you're surrounded by books all the time and you're paid to think! I had a very idealized view of academia.)

If you feel that you have both feet planted on level ground, then the university has failed you.
-- Robert Goheen

For four years I balanced my interests -- some physics, mathematics, logic, Latin, Greek, medieval history, and increasingly, computer science. This was partly because of a fascination with computers that dated back to 1981, the year my family bought an Apple ] [ e. I admit that I was not unaware of the financial ramifications, either; the likelihood I'd find a job as an itinerant classicist seemed vanishingly small.

I settled on computer science in my junior year; Mom told me I could read Virgil in my spare time. When I was a senior, I enrolled in a combined undergraduate/graduate program so I could start on a Ph.D. while finishing my bachelor's. (At Stanford they would call this co-terming; at Michigan it was called CUGS, though it was much less common there than it is here.)

I graduated with high honors in April 1994 with an Honors B.S. in Computer Science, while simultaneously completing my first year of graduate school. This was probably the last time I would have told anybody that I knew what I was doing.

The University of Michigan, 1994-1995:
Graduate school, it's not just a job -- it's an indenture

This was a good year for me. At the time I was interested in theoretical computer science, and I worked for Kevin Compton on the computational complexity of counting classes. I was also a teaching assistant for EECS 181, Introduction to Computer Systems for Bert Herzog. I greatly enjoyed teaching, and I was lucky enough to work with a fun and talented staff in 181. One of my proudest achievements at Michigan was receiving the Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award from the EECS department at the end of that year.

In May of 1995 I got my Master's. As I said, I had originally intended to stay at Michigan and keep working on my Ph.D., but both Prof. Compton and Prof. Herzog recommended that I apply to other schools to broaden my experience. (At least that's the reason they gave.) I applied to several other schools, and early in 1995 decided to come here to Stanford University for my doctorate, beginning in fall of 1995.

Stanford University, 1995 - 1998:
The land of peaches and cream

I entered the Computer Science Ph.D. program at Stanford in fall 1995 without the faintest idea what I would do. The research I'd been doing at Michigan didn't seem to mesh well with the theory being done here, so I decided to examine some alternatives. I started by taking a variety of courses in human-computer interaction, which quickly led to a research assistantship.

I am now a member of the Virtual Theater project at Stanford, under the direction of Dr. Barbara Hayes-Roth. For the gory details of what I do, see my Research and Related Work page. It's a mixture of HCI and agent design, with the goal of building "believable" agents (agents with personality and emotions) for education, entertainment, and improving certain other interfaces.

Californians invented the concept of lifestyle. This alone warrants their doom.
-- Don DeLillo

Moving to California was quite a shock. All I knew about San Francisco was that the city occasionally collapsed and/or burned to the ground, and was sometimes visited by time-traveling environmentalists. I had a vague notion that people often went surfing, driving to the beach in convertibles down long avenues lined with palm trees, which I probably got from channel-surfing past L. A. Law. This sounds ridiculously naive to you, but I remind you that I spent over twenty years living in mid-Michigan.

And life at Stanford is different from life in Michigan. It's much more temperate here, the ground isn't a treacherous sheet of ice at any point during the year, and so far as I can tell nobody claims either to bowl 300 or get their kill every year. Not that Michigan was a bad place; on the contrary, it's less crowded, it's much easier to take a walk in the forest or a swim on the lake, and we have real seasons there. I miss fall especially. California, or at least Silicon Valley, has a more cosmopolitan ethos. (Cosmopolitan means the food is expensive, the traffic is terrible, and even the children carry cell phones.)

During these first years at Stanford I fought my way through courses I'd missed at Michigan, started to publish my own research, and I even survived the dreaded AI qualifying exam (see the QUAIL study group and my survey notes). In 1997-1998 I had a slight industrial affiliation as the recipient of an Intel Foundation Graduate Fellowship.

Stanford University, 1998 - 1999:
California roll (with the punches)

Longfellow wrote, Into every life a little rain must fall. Well, the persistently sunny skies and cheery, if slow, evolution of my degree was eventually marred by a dark cloud on the horizon.

Just after my birthday in 1998 I was admitted to the hospital with what I thought was probably acute appendicitis. Luckily for me, they quickly found the correct diagnosis; unluckily, that diagnosis was Crohn's disease, an immune system malady that affects the digestive system. Since then I've gone through a number of medications trying to get the symptoms under control. Unfortunately, at the moment it's incurable; fortunately, for me, I've had fairly minor problems, mainly fatigue and abdominal pain. The progress of the disease is unpredictable; it could improve, might get worse, might go into remission. In any case it's treatable -- a great relief! See the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation page for more details.

Research continued through 1998-1999 as my ideas about annotations and environments slowly clarified. It seemed a natural fit for certain kinds of environments; for example, the Web, where XML is already becoming a hot topic as a way to provide semantic markup.

In fall quarter 1999, Barbara and I taught an experimental HCI course, CS 377B: Interactive Characters. Although we designed the syllabus together, I did the administrative work and almost all of the lecturing for the course, so it was quite a bit different from the TAing I'd done before. Fortunately, we had a great group of students to work with, and I enjoyed it tremendously.

For I have known them all already, known them all: --
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons...
-- T. S. Eliot

Stanford 2000: Excelsior?

This is my fifth year in the Ph.D. program at Stanford, and it certainly feels like it. Graduate school is for people who are smart enough to get in and dumb enough to stay there. I've learned a great deal, but like most of my classmates, I'm eager to finish here and move on, whether that's to teaching, industrial research, or work at one of those exciting new startups you always hear about on TV.

As of this writing (April 2000), I've finished my thesis proposal and am showing it to my advisors; I hope to be done in another year or so. My thesis is an attempt to explore how the process of annotating virtual environments with semantic markup will allow believable agents to be more believable and more intelligent. Although my domain is believable characters, it's easy to imagine how the general idea could apply to other areas.

Stanford 2003: And Yet He Abides

As of this writing (February 2003), I'm still at Stanford. I'm busily coding away on my agents, and I've got a chunk of my dissertation written. The plan is to give my defense in the late spring or early summer, and in any case to wrap things up by October. It's hard to believe that I've been here for eight years now, and yet that seems to be how it's worked out.

For those of you who've made it this far, still more exciting details about me can be found on the Interests and Images pages.