Six USC assistant professors received this year’s National Science Foundation Career Award. The total of five from the USC Viterbi School of Engineering is the highest annual amount in the school’s history, bringing its overall count to 60.
This year’s winners are Burcin Becerik-Gerber in the Sonny Astani Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering; Mike Chen and Justin Haldar in the Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical Engineering; Shaddin Dughmi and Ethan Katz-Basset in the Department of Computer Science; and Justin Wood in the Department of Psychology at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.
The award consists of a five-year grant from the NSF to support research and teaching, as well as to enhance community outreach efforts to explain the research to K-12 students and other constituencies.
Here is how the winners plan to use their awards:
Katz-Bassett, who joined USC Viterbi in 2012, works to improve Internet performance. His work focuses on bettering Internet performance in a variety of ways, from understanding how Google delivers results to searchers to pioneering the development of metrics for Internet use. He runs a network systems research group.
Becerik-Gerber, a leading expert on the relationship between buildings and the humans who use them, will use her grant to understand and quantify the impact human activity has on energy use in buildings. She imagines transforming buildings into self-learning entities that can adapt to humans.
Chen seeks a new way to convert analog signals to digital ones, which will reduce distortion and allow users to send a wider range of signals. The electrical engineer, who joined the department in 2010, will also use asynchronous signaling to make devices more efficient. He hopes to use his award to begin transforming the electronic systems behind communications and biomedical equipment.
Dughmi will study the behavior of participants in human systems, such as auctions for advertising space and GPS trackers that recognize congestion. By modifying the available incentives and information players have, Dughmi wants to see how he can influence player behavior. Then he’ll optimize the system using existing algorithmic techniques for incentives.
Haldar’s grant will support his research on magnetic resonance neuroimaging. The electrical engineer, who holds a joint appointment in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, seeks ways to maximize the amount of information neuroimaging can provide. Magnetic resonance technology is powerful, but because it takes a long time to acquire noisy data, its use in medicine is limited. Haldar plans to address, and eventually eradicate, those limits.
Wood’s laboratory examines how experience shapes visual cognition in a newborn animal (the newly hatched chick). His findings will provide the foundation for a new, publicly accessible database for advancing the study of newborn cognition. This will be the first database to provide systematic descriptions of how specific sensory inputs relate to specific behavioral outputs in a newborn organism.