After his bachelor’s degree, Phillips taught and did research in medical imaging and shape before joining up with the newly constituted Pixar — a spin-off from LucasFilm and another hotbed of interdisciplinary activity. As Pixar became both more successful and more focused on motion picture animation, Phillips returned to Ohio State for a Ph.D. in architecture. A series of coincidences (featuring his Pixar colleagues Alvy Ray Smith and Loren Carpenter and some books by Jan Koenderink and Bela Julesz) happily led to a Ph.D. in cognitive psychology instead. There, he specialized in the perception of three-dimensional shape, inspired by his earlier architectural and computer graphics training.
Phillips is a past editor of the Mathematica Journal, which focuses on computer mathematics across the spectrum of science, art, and social and economic modeling. He has written and edited books, journal articles, and reviews on subjects ranging from vision and its interaction with touch to deception in sports and prestidigitation.
A member of the Skidmore faculty since 1998, he teaches such courses as quantitative and computational methods, perception, and an FYE on “designing a mind.” Currently his research centers on the visual and haptic perception of two- and three-dimensional shape, psychological aesthetics, and cortical plasticity related to blindness and visual restoration.
He collaborates with research groups at Ohio State, Western Kentucky, RPI, RIT, MIT, Harvard, and Gießen.
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