Three More SBU Professors Earn NSF CAREER Awards

Three Stony Brook University professors recently received nearly $1.67 million in combined funding through National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Awards to support ongoing research.

Weisen Shen, an assistant professor in the Department of Geosciences, will use a five-year $627,000 CAREER Award to investigate the subsurface structure near the South Pole. Theodore Drivas, an assistant professor in the Mathematics Department, will use his $499,999, five-year CAREER Award to expand his research project, “Order and Disorder in Two-Dimensional Fluid Motion.” Stanley Bak, assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science, received a $550,000 CAREER Award over five years for the project, “Verified AI in Cyber-Physical Systems Through Input Quantization.”

Weisen Shen, assistant professor, Department of Geosciences
Weisen Shen, assistant professor, Department of Geosciences

Shen said his research, a comprehensive seismic investigation into the crust and uppermost mantle beneath the South Pole in East Antarctica, will help fill a knowledge gap regarding Antarctic earth sciences.

“Understanding the subsurface structure near the South Pole will answer some of the most exciting scientific questions in Antarctic Earth Science, ranging from the origin of the high subglacial mountains and the southernmost volcanic rocks to the existence of nearby subglacial lakes,” said Shen. “However, it has been very challenging to answer these questions since the area is remote and the ice cover is thick. With the logistical support from NSF, we can now deploy seismic stations on top of the ice sheet to provide an alternative tool to image the continent through the ice, as seismic signals record sensitive information about the geology of the crust below.”

The field work will deploy new seismic sensors in the South Pole area and collect data to perform a suite of modern seismic data analyses to produce a variety of seismic observables. These observables will be translated into maps illustrating the physical properties and chemical composition of the underlying crust, and further help determine the thermal properties of the underlying crust near the South Pole. These observations will provide a first-order assessment of the sub-ice geology and insights into the origins of the features such as the Transantarctic Mountains and numerous subglacial lakes.

As part of the project, Shen and his team will collaborate with K-12 school districts and community colleges on Long Island, provide free geoscience tutoring, public lectures, and invite K-12 educators to teach students from the field.

“These efforts will highlight the importance of polar geosciences in a changing climate and elevate the awareness of earth science as a viable career path for high school students,” said Shen.

Theodore Drivas, assistant professor, Department of Mathematics
Theodore Drivas, assistant professor, Department of Mathematics

Drivas will use his $499,999, five-year CAREER award to explore two-dimensional fluids from the perspectives of both geometry and dynamical systems, as well as to bridge the gap between these disciplines through the training of junior researchers and the organizing of mini-courses and conferences.

“Many geophysical and astrophysical systems such as oceanic currents, large-scale weather patterns and planetary atmospheres are described, to good approximation, by two-dimensional fluid equations,” Drivas said. “Understanding the long-term dynamics of two-dimensional fluids is fundamental to weather prediction, climate science, and astrophysics.”

The focus of Drivas’ work will be the study of the prototype of all such systems, the forced two-dimensional incompressible Navier-Stokes equations and their zero-viscosity, unforced counterpart, the Euler equations.

“The project aims to advance our understanding of these fundamental aspects of fluid motion by studying the behavior of solutions both near and far from equilibrium through the lens of partial differential equations, geometry, and dynamical systems,” he said.

Bak, who is the third Computer Science faculty to receive a CAREER Award this year, will work to develop formal verification methods for cyber-physical systems (CPS) that include artificial intelligence (AI) components. Although recent advances in AI have impacted in many fields, there have been fewer applications of AI techniques in CPS, where computer systems directly interface with the physical world. The key strategy to be explored in this work will be to replace complex AI components by approximations based on a process called input quantization.

Stanley Bak, assistant professor, Department of Computer Science
Stanley Bak, assistant professor, Department of Computer Science

Bak’s project strives to instill a justified trust in AI systems. Educational aspects entail tutorials during CPS Week and integration with Bak’s coursework. As computer science students are rarely exposed to control theory, Bak hopes to add such aspects to the undergraduate AI class. Through mentorship of high school Simons Summer Research Program students, Bak hopes to expand research in trustworthy AI-based CPS.

Earlier this year, Shubham Jain and Shuai Mu, assistant professors in the Department of Computer Science, received more than $1 million in combined grants for their research. Overall, the department has more than 20 NSF CAREER awardees as part of its faculty.

NSF CAREER Awards support early-career faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research and education. It is among the NSF’s most prestigious national honors and a major milestone for university faculty.

– Robert Emproto

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