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(Last updated 1/7/06)


CONFRONTING COMPLEXITY: Three Computer Science Faculty Win Early Career Awards

By Pam Frost Gorder

The three latest Ohio State University faculty members to win early career awards are developing software to confront complexities in computers and in biology.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Department of Energy (DOE) have honored them with grants that will bring more than $1.1 million of combined federal funds to the university over the next five years.

Two of the faculty members -- Hakan Ferhatosmanoglu and Atanas (Nasko) Rountev -- received NSF's Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award, and a third, Yusu Wang, received DOE's Early Career Principal Investigator (ECPI) award. All are assistant professors of computer science and engineering.

Ferhatosmanoglu will receive approximately $450,000 for his five-year project, "Exploration of Dynamic Sequences in Scientific Databases."

Ohio State now has 44 CAREER winners and four ECPI winners. Other winners will be announced as sponsoring agencies make their awards throughout the year.

Massive databases are commonplace today, in business as well as academia. From seismology to the stock market, people want to analyze data minute by minute. But what they really need, Ferhatosmanoglu said, is to zero in on the small portion of all that data that truly matters to them. "We want fast answers, and we want accurate answers. Normally, we would have to take different data sources and compare them to find what we're looking for," he said. He will develop tools to compress massive databases into useful summaries, so that people can get the answers they need without searching an entire data set.

Rountev will receive approximately $400,000 for his five-year project, "Dataflow Analysis for Modern Software Systems."

Software has become an integral part of everyday life, and that's both good and bad news for the people who build software systems, Rountev explained. Programs from different manufacturers must work together seamlessly, or else users experience software crashes, slow performance, and security vulnerabilities. These are manifestations of complexity, he said: "The goal of my work is to create sophisticated analysis tools that can help software developers deal with complexity, so they can produce software that is more reliable -- that does what it's supposed to do."

Wang will receive approximately $300,000 for her three-year project "Feature Extraction, Characterization, And Visualization for Protein Interaction via Geometric and Topological Methods."

Wang's discipline of biogeometry -- the intersection of computational geometry and molecular structure -- is a new field. She will develop novel algorithms as well as accompanying software for connecting different features on complex biological molecules, such as proteins, with their function in nature. And now that scientists have succeeded in mapping many protein structures, she sees her work as a next step toward understanding how proteins work. "We know that structure plays an important role in how proteins bind together. Now we can ask, why did they bind here and not there? It's like you have a 3D puzzle to put together," she says.

The CAREER award honors teachers and scholars who are likely to become academic leaders in the future. Since 1996, NSF has given the award to faculty who effectively integrate research and education within the context of the mission of their institution.

Begun in 2002, DOE's ECPI program helps researchers establish careers in applied mathematics, computer science, and high-performance networking. Another area of focus is collaboratory research -- the development of software that helps physically separated laboratories work together.

Ohio State now has 44 CAREER winners and four ECPI winners. Other winners will be announced as sponsoring agencies make their awards throughout the year.


Contact: Hakan Ferhatosmanoglu, (614) 292-6377; ferhatosmanoglu.1@osu.edu

Nasko Rountev, (614) 292-7203; rountev.1@osu.edu

Yusu Wang, (614) 292-1309; wang.1016@osu.edu

Written by Pam Frost Gorder, (614) 292-9475; Gorder.1@osu.edu