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National Science Foundation Awards Three UAlbany Faculty $1 Million Grant

Award recipients from left: Charalampos Chelmis, Daphney Zois and Wonhyung Lee. Photo by Daphne Jorgensen.  

ALBANY, N.Y. (Dec. 5, 2017) – The National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded three UAlbany researchers a $1 million grant to develop technology to help municipal and community service providers to better, more quickly and more effectively respond to the communities they serve.

Daphney Zois and Charalampos Chelmis from the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and Wonhyung Lee from the School of Social Welfare are collaborating to create a “one-stop shop” for information that can improve accessibility to service providers for users, facilitate coordination between service-providing agencies and streamline the deployment of resources such as donations and volunteers.

 “Ultimately, our technology has the potential to change the lives of real people,” Chelmis said, assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science.”

The trio’s technology will be deliverable through a website or a mobile app, and could help a person looking for food after business hours, for example, to locate the closest food pantry quickly, and in a user-friendly way.

The system could also provide the ability to alert city management teams, police officers and street outreach workers to problems and concerns. Checking and reporting capacity and eligibility criteria of homeless shelters, medical clinics and other care givers are also possible benefits of the technology funded by NSF.

“I’m excited to be a part of an innovative and multi-disciplinary research project that tries to streamline the work of humanitarian organizations by connecting those in need with those willing to help,” said Zois, assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “I’m looking forward to engaging with community partners and designing practical solutions that can meet their needs.”

Building Bridges

The development team combines three academic units: the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, the Department of Computer Science and the School of Social Welfare. Each faculty member will focus on a distinct facet of the project. Zois, the leading researcher for the project, will develop novel methods for decision-making under uncertainty. Chelmis will develop data mining and machine learning algorithms. Lee will connect the team with community stakeholders, integrate community feedback and examine community dynamics.

“Creating smarter and more connected communities is definitely an exciting task, but also a challenging one, both conceptually and empirically,” Lee said, an assistant professor from the School of Social Welfare. “It’s a blessing that we have many community partners who are very supportive and excited to share the same vision that we have.”

Kim Boyer, professor and dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, celebrated the researchers’ success establishing “research programs that matter” and in connecting departments and faculty across the University.

“Their work together exemplifies the CEAS mission of “Science in Service to Society.”

Vice President for Research James Dias said the team’s research “shines a bright light on the overarching impact that the faculty and students’ scholarly work is having on the communities” that the University serves.

“These promising assistant professors embody the spirit of research excellence and UAlbany’s commitment to public engagement by leveraging technology to ensure access to critical, community-based services for families in need, and other vulnerable populations,” Dias said.

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A comprehensive public research university, the University at Albany offers more than 120 undergraduate majors and minors and 125 master's, doctoral, and graduate certificate programs. UAlbany is a leader among all New York State colleges and universities in such diverse fields as atmospheric and environmental sciences, business, criminal justice, emergency preparedness, engineering and applied sciences, informatics, public administration, social welfare, and sociology taught by an extensive roster of faculty experts. It also offers expanded academic and research opportunities for students through an affiliation with Albany Law School. With a curriculum enhanced by 600 study-abroad opportunities, UAlbany launches great careers.