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Computer scientists at Old Dominion University have received more than $1.2 million in recent research support to pursue projects in diverse fields ranging from the sensor-monitoring of highway traffic to the cataloguing of digital documents.

Kurt Maly, the Kaufman Professor of Computer Science who was chair of the Department of Computer Science for more than two decades before relinquishing the post in September, is an investigator on three new grants. In addition, Maly and two ODU colleagues received a $25,000 IBM Faculty Award in late summer in recognition of overall achievement in autonomic computing. This award is rarely won for consecutive years, but the ODU team has won it four years in a row.

This flurry of awards "makes a success story for computer science," Maly said. Under his leadership, the department's annual research budget increased from $80,000 to $2 million.

Here is a breakdown of the recent awards:

Steven Olariu, professor of computer science, is an investigator on a $550,000 NSF grant to develop prototypical networked sensor systems (NSS) that are smarter, more reliable and more secure than existing systems. The ANSWER (AutoNomouS networked sEnsoR) system, as proposed by Olariu and colleagues at Virginia Tech and the University of Maryland, is an advanced form of the wireless sensor systems that are expected to pervade-and greatly improve-our lives over the next few decades. A sensor system in a residence, for example, could be accessed by rescue responders to determine whether there are people inside, whether the people are incapacitated, whether toxic fumes or flames are present, and so forth. Other applications might support homeland security and battlefield strategies. ODU's portion of the three-year grant is $135,000.

Olariu and Michele Weigle, assistant professor of computer science, received a three-year, $400,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop a highway congestion early-warning system. This work is in collaboration with Asad Khattak, Batten Endowed Professor of Transportation Studies and professor of civil and environmental engineering at ODU. NOTICE (Notification of Traffic Incidents and Congestion) proposes sensor belts embedded in roadways and vehicular ad-hoc networks (VANETs) to monitor for and provide alerts about traffic tie-ups. The communications between vehicles and the networks will be privacy-preserving and will include alerts to the vehicles about blocked roads. A primary goal of the project is to reduce the amount of gasoline wasted by cars idled by congestion.

Weigle and researchers at the University of North Carolina, University of California San Diego and University of Wisconsin received a three-year grant for $800,000 ($202,000 as ODU's share) from NSF to develop tools for the generation of synthetic computer network traffic to facilitate realistic experimentation either in simulation or on research test beds. The tools can generate network traffic that is statistically similar to that found on real Internet links. In addition to the set of tools, the project will develop a repository of network traces and models from a wide variety of network links, including campus networks, wide-area backbone networks, corporate intranets, and wireless networks.

Maly, along with Mohammad Zubair, professor of computer science, and Stephen Zeil, associate professor of computer science, received an 18-month, $139,000 grant from the federal Defense Technical Information Center (DTIC) to develop an automated system for extracting data from technical documents that can be used to digitally catalog those documents. DTIC acquires and digitally stores millions of important documents and requires a reliable way to retrieve them. A manual document review has been necessary in the past to generate the metadata that "tags" a document to allow retrieval. The researchers have proposed software to automatically extract the metadata and do the tagging.

Maly, Zubair and Zeil received a two-year, $126,000 award from the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) for a project along the same lines as the DTIC work noted above. The researchers will propose and test ways of adapting the software to handle automated metadata extraction from GPO documents that are different in form from DTIC documents. GPO has selected a sample of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) documents for the researchers to use in the project.

Maly and Zubair also are working with Harris Wu, assistant professor of information technology and decision sciences in ODU's College of Business and Public Administration, on a three-year, $403,000 grant they received from NSF to improve Internet searches of nontextual content. The focus of the researchers' classification system will be documents and other items in the U.S. government's photograph and multimedia collection. Content that is not text-based is difficult to classify-or tag with search-friendly descriptive words. But the ODU team is devising a system that allows anyone who searches within the government collection to contribute key words that will enable the classification system to evolve and stay up-to-date. This scheme is likened by the researchers to social tagging systems utilized by flickr.com and wiki classification interfaces. Users suggest keywords, and by their choices they can also accept, reject or modify the "soft" preliminary classifications that originate with the system.

The IBM Faculty Awards are to Zubair and Ravi Mukkamala, professor of computer science.

Other recent highlights of Maly's years as chair include two major awards in 2006. Michael Nelson, assistant professor of computer science, won a $540,000 Early Career Development award from NSF that will support his work on strategies for preserving digital data. Alex Pothen, professor of computer science, is lead investigator on a $7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to develop new software for scientific problem solving on the next generation of high-performance computers. The DOE funding established the Combinatorial Scientific Computing and Petascale Simulations (CSCAPES, pronounced "seascapes") Institute, which is based on the ODU campus.

The department has announced that it will commemorate Maly's service as chair with an oil portrait to be hung in the central third-floor hallway of the E.V. Williams Engineering and Computational Sciences Building. Michael Overstreet, associate professor of computer science, is serving as interim chair of the department during the search for Maly's successor.

This article was posted on: October 25, 2007

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