Photo of myself wearing a mask

Mark J. Nelson

Assistant Professor & Undergraduate Director
Department of Computer Science
American University

I'm a professor in the computer science department at American University, with a research focus on artificial intelligence (AI).

My main area is AI & games. This includes technical research on game playing as a paradigmatic example of sequential decision-making; design-support work using AI for automated and semi-automated design; and conceptual work on formal models of games' mechanical and meaning-making elements.

Recently I have also been investigating how to harness the strengths of large language models (LLMs) for open-domain reasoning while constraining their tendency towards generating hallucinated and otherwise incorrect outputs.

In common with others who identify with the broad AI tradition (rather than with narrow technical subfields), I have fairly wide academic interests, across AI, formal logic, machine learning, programming languages, theoretical computer science, etc. – more or less anything relevant to the computationalization of intelligence.

Background: I did my B.S. in Computer Science at Harvey Mudd College, where I was influenced onto my current research path by Belinda Thom, Jim Marshall, and Melissa O'Neill; and my Ph.D. in Computer Science at the Georgia Institute of Technology, where my thesis advisors were Michael Mateas and Charles Isbell. I subsequently worked in various roles at the University of California Santa Cruz, the IT University of Copenhagen (Denmark), and Falmouth University (UK), before coming to AU.

Teaching at AU: I most frequently teach Artificial Intelligence (CSC-468/668) and Programming Languages (CSC-421/621). I have also taught Game Development (GAME-615), Operating Systems (CSC-465/665), and several special-topics courses (CSC-496/696), most recently on generative AI.