David Abel

Portrait CV | Git | Scholar david_abel@brown.edu


I'm a Ph.D candidate in Computer Science at Brown University focusing on Artificial Intelligence, advised by Prof. Michael Littman.


My research investigates the foundations of Artificial Intelligence and applications thereof to scientific and societal challenges.

In my current work, I study how intelligent agents model the worlds they inhabit, focusing on the representational practices that underly effective learning and planning. In these endeavors I value simple mathematical models with high explanatory power that allow for reproducible empirical inquiry. To these ends, I typically work with the Reinforcement Learning paradigm, drawing on tools from computational learning theory, probability, complex systems, and information theory.

I also care deeply about responsible applications of AI to problems of relevance in the world, with a current focus on the mission of computational sustainability.

Recent Publications

Solar Diagram

Improving Solar Panel Efficiency Using Reinforcement Learning
EnviroInfo 2017, RLDM 2017

(EnviroInfo paper, RLDM paper)

We develop a simulation for evaluating RL approaches for Solar Tracking and verify that an RL approach can increase energy harvested over existing Solar Tracking algorithms. Joint work with Emily Reif, Edward C. Williams, Stephen Brawner, and Michael Littman.

RL and Abstraction

Near Optimal Behavior via Approximate State Abstraction
ICML 2016

(paper, arXiv version, slides)

We investigate what approximate abstractions preserve near-optimality for Reinforcement Learning agents. Joint work with Ellis Hershkowitz and Michael Littman.

Full list of papers here.


For fun, I'm a big fan of basketball, hiking, travel, fitness, cooking, snowboarding, and music (especially folk, trance, and progressive metal).

I'm an advocate of a few specific causes: sustainability efforts, existential risk minimization, space exploration, and improving the diversity, quality, and accessibility of STEM education.

Always up for a chat - shoot me an email if you'd like to discuss anything!