Section: Archived News Stories

Ten faculty receive NSF CAREER awards

March 6th, 2012 ›



By Anne Ju

Ten Cornell faculty members are recent recipients of National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Awards, which support early-career development activities of teacher-scholars. All awardees also engage in education and outreach activities as part of their grant fulfillments.

Christopher Batten, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, received $500,000 over five years to explore architectural techniques to improve the performance and efficiency of future heterogeneous computing systems. Such systems use a mix of general-purpose multicores and programmable graphics processing units and are becoming common across the computing spectrum, from cellphones to supercomputers. Heterogeneity offers a balance between programmability and efficiency, but can also significantly increase complexity at all levels of the computing stack. His project explores a new approach based on explicitly encoding and executing a loop iteration space with the goal of elegantly unifying these two types of processors into a single homogeneous computational substrate.

Tanzeem Choudhury, assistant professor of information science, has been awarded $507,000 over five years for research into community-based methods for sensing, recognizing and interpreting human activities from body-worn sensors. Her project involves developing systems that learn new classes of activity with minimal human supervision, developing the paradigm of community-guided learning, and evaluating these new learning methods by using them in specific applied areas.

Susan Daniel, assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, has received $400,000 over five years for research into discovering the function of species that comprise cell membrane microdomains. Membrane species are essential for regulating cellular processes and vital to proper function of bioanalytical assays and sensors, yet are not well understood. Daniel is employing a novel microfluidic device with patterned, two-phase co-existent membranes to assess biomolecule partitioning into different membrane phases; identify the stimuli that trigger changes in partitioning; and quantify how partitioning impacts, and possibly regulates, protein function.

Olivier Elemento, assistant professor of computational genomics in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics at Weill Cornell Medical College, has received $1.5 million over five years for developing novel computational methods to analyze and interpret epigenomics and chromatin interaction datasets. He will use these methods, together with experimentation, to discover and characterize the principles by which regulatory elements situated far away from genes contribute to the regulation of transcription in cells.

Craig Fennie, assistant professor of applied and engineering physics, has received $400,000 over five years for using theory to discover and design new dielectric and magnetic phenomena and their materials realizations. His approach involves a combination of microscopic models of the solid state, basic principles of crystal chemistry, and first-principles simulations. Due to their highly tunable characteristics, structurally and chemically complex oxide materials containing transition metals elements, such as multiferroic oxides, are promising classes of materials to explore. Fennie's project will focus on artificially structured materials in which an atomic-scale interface is key in determining macroscopic properties.

Richard Hennig, assistant professor of materials science and engineering, has received $475,000 over five years to study computational techniques for solving materials problems involving the interfaces of solid materials with liquids. Such interfaces challenge many existing computational approaches due to their heterogeneity, the statistical nature of the liquid, the importance of both strong and weak forces among molecules, and high atomic density on both sides. The research addresses longstanding questions on the effects of solvents on fundamental physical and chemical processes.

Liam McAllister, assistant professor of physics, has received $400,000 over five years to develop theoretical models of the early universe -- in particular, models of inflation in string theory -- and to use these ideas to interpret the coming generation of cosmological observations. Recent cosmological studies are consistent with predictions of inflation, which describe explosive expansion before the big bang. A fundamental understanding of inflation requires a theory of quantum gravity, such as string theory. Moreover, by probing inflation through cosmological observations, one can examine physics at the highest energy scales and shed light on the physical laws that governed the beginning of the universe.

Alyosha Molnar, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, has received $400,000 over five years to study integrated, low-cost systems for capturing and characterizing light from 3-D scenes while minimizing or eliminating the need for off-chip computation. The project involves understanding the capabilities and limitations of imaging systems using diffractive angle-sensitive pixels to analyze the light field. Broader impacts will include enhanced imaging systems with applications in security, automation, health care and scientific research, from wildlife tracking to microscopy.

Richard Robinson, assistant professor of materials science and engineering, has received $600,000 over five years to examine nanoscale vibrational heat transport. His work should inform improved engineering of such devices as thermoelectrics and microelectronic cooling modules through the exploitation of nanomaterials' unusual thermal properties. In insulating materials, heat is transmitted by atomic vibrations, or phonons, which move through a solid like ripples in water, but much more rapidly. Existing physical theories explain heat transport well in bulk materials, but these laws break down when the same material is reduced to the nanoscale. Robinson's research will create a phonon spectrometer to measure the transport properties of these phonons at the nanoscale.

Noah Snavely, assistant professor of computer science, has received $498,956 over five years to create basic computational tools for "calibrating" all of the world's photos, in terms of time and place, through use of a worldwide database of 3-D models built from Internet photo collections. The focus will be on creating faster, more robust algorithms for 3-D reconstruction from unstructured photo collections, as well as techniques for world-scale pose estimation -- computing precisely where in the world a photo was taken from image data alone.