David Abel


  • Talk at Baidu CA November 26th.

  • Presenting Thesis Proposal November 8th.

  • Virtual Talk through COGS.

  • Talk at CU Boulder October 16th.

  • Talk at IBM AI Systems day October 3rd.

  • Talk at Princeton September 24th.

  • Talk at Oregon State July 27th.

  • New blog post on our ICML state abstraction paper.

  • Notes from ICML available.

  • Attended ICML in Sweden to present two papers.

  • Attended NEML May 7th at MSR Boston.

  • Attended AAAI/IAAI in New Orleans to present a paper.

  • My Research Matters talk is available.


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.

I'm currently focused on understanding abstraction and its role in intelligence. I study how intelligent agents model the worlds they inhabit, focusing on the representational practices that underly effective learning and planning. I typically work with the Reinforcement Learning paradigm, drawing on tools from computational learning theory, probability, and information theory.

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

Featured Publications

State Abstr for Lifelong RL

We bring state abstraction theory out of the traditional single task setting and into lifelong reinforcement learning.

Transfer in RL

We consider the question of how best to initialize an agent's policy or value function for a new task, given the optimal policies and value functions obtained by solving prior tasks.


For fun, I'm a big fan of basketball, hiking, fitness, cooking, snowboarding, and music (I play guitar/violin and mostly listen to folk, progressive metal, and classical).

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, and happy to visit labs or companies to give talks - shoot me an email if you'd like to discuss further!