Computer scientists, biostatistician share in system technology grants

June 18, 2012

Faculty members from the College of Natural Sciences and the School of Public Health and Health Sciences are among the recipients of nearly $750,000 in grants from the President’s Science and Technology Initiatives Fund announced June 18 by President Robert L. Caret.

Computer scientists Yanlei Diao, Preshant Shenoy and Deepak Ganesan were awarded a total of $321,250 and biostatistician Andrea Foulkes received $97,500 through the fund, which provides seed grants to accelerate research activity across all five campuses and position researchers to attract larger investments from external sources to expand the scope of their projects.

“The science and technology fund advances the work of producing the discoveries and technological breakthroughs that will improve lives, create jobs, and preserve our planet,” said Caret. “It supports the ideas and inventiveness of our faculty and fosters a culture of collaboration across all five campuses that attracts investments and underscores our role as an innovation engine for the Commonwealth.”

Diao and Shenoy’s project, Big Data Informatics Initiative (BDI2), received $136,250. The initiative focuses on areas such as detecting financial fraud in large-scale securities data, correlating video-audio surveillance data to spot trends or anomalies in real time; and smart-meter data processing by energy utilities. Collaborators include the Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center, Holyoke Gas & Electric, MIT and commercial partners such as EMC, Nokia, GE Global Research and Yahoo Research.

The grant to Foulkes is supporting the creation of the Institute for Computational Biology, Biostatistics & Bioinformatics (ICB3), which will develop the University’s bioinformatics research capabilities in applied biotechnology, pharmacology and bioinformatics, as well as establish a center to train the regional workforce and researchers on all five campuses in computational and bioinformatics methods and use of software tools.

Ganesan and Sherry Pagoto of the Medical School were awarded $185,000 for mHealth-based Behavioral Sensing & Interventions, a center that will research mobile health technologies such as wearable jewelry and smartphones on patients with a variety of health conditions, including an initial study to develop wearable sensor software with real-time data analysis and patient feedback. Partners include mobile health device companies such as Jawbone/Aliphcom, Rock Health, Nexercise, Runkeeper, Microsoft Research, IBM, Google and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center in Holyoke.

Among the other grant-funded projects, Rod Grupen, Computer Science, is collaborating on the New England Robotics Validation and Experimentation (NERVE) Center at UMass Lowell. The center will provide robotics companies and research institutions with a National Institute of Standards and Technology designed test course for year-round validation of robots and robotic systems.

This is the ninth year the President’s Science and Technology Initiatives Fund awards have been handed out. Since 2004, the fund has provided $7.5 million to UMass researchers, which, in turn, has generated $207 million in funding from outside sources for vital research efforts and led to the creation of nearly 20 research centers on the five campuses. To date, the science and technology fund has financed more than 60 projects.

President's Office announcement