FAU researchers receive prestigious NSF CAREER awards

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Researchers represent the College of Engineering and Computer Science

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Credit: Florida Atlantic University

Two researchers from Florida Atlantic University’s College of Engineering and Computer Science have received the coveted National Science Foundation (NSF) Early Career (CAREER) awards. The CAREER program offers the NSF’s most prestigious awards in support of early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization.

The researchers are Xiangnan Zhong, Ph.D., an assistant professor; and Zhen Ni, Ph.D., an assistant professor, both in the Department of Computer and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, who received the NSF CAREER awards to drive the current artificial intelligence (AI) wave.

“Although existing achievements in artificial intelligence and reinforcement learning are exciting, the fundamental research of data aggregation, learning and approximation capability and the performance generalization during uncertainties is not yet fully developed,” said Stella Batalama, Ph.D., dean, College of Engineering and Computer Science. “The prestigious NSF CAREER awards that professors Zhong and Ni have received will help us to close the gap from the current state-of-the-art techniques to the artificial general intelligence that will bring good performance in learning speed, data efficiency, and generalization of the optimization performance. Moreover, the activities resulting from these projects will vigorously contribute to the nation’s artificial intelligence workforce development.”

Zhong has received a $503,000 NSF CAREER grant to investigate the intelligent learning control to enable the cyber physical systems (CPS) with the capabilities of autonomous learning and generalization to rapidly adapt in unknown situations. The results are expected to transform how agents interact in high-dimensional and heterogeneous environments, and therefore could potentially provide in-depth findings for exploring creativity in frontier AI techniques.

Zhong also will develop cooperative learning strategies to share with extended skills to facilitate exploration and prevent agents from getting confused by the action details. In addition, this project will develop self-motivated learning structures to contribute toward the global objectives for team-wide success in a distributed perspective.

“The integration of research and education plans will prepare our future workforce in the fields of cyber physical systems, AI, learning and control,” said Zhong.

Ni has received a $500,000 NSF CAREER grant for a natural concurrent reinforcement learning framework that has three major advantages over traditional reinforcement learning methods. These include advantages of simultaneously learning multimodal properties of the complex system; structural advantages of using a personalized learning scheme; and implementation advantages of the data-driven sample-efficient design.
Within this framework, Ni will design two concurrent reinforcement learning methods to build the learning-in-learning control paradigm. The applications on smart energy community will support the novel learning framework and theoretical results.

“Beyond the scientific impacts, this research has broader impacts for a wide range of research disciplines including transportation, rehabilitation and robotics,” said Ni. “Furthermore, the integration of research and education activities will positively impact institutions both regionally and nationally.”

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– FAU –

About FAU’s College of Engineering and Computer Science:

The FAU College of Engineering and Computer Science is internationally recognized for cutting edge research and education in the areas of computer science and artificial intelligence (AI), computer engineering, electrical engineering, bioengineering, civil, environmental and geomatics engineering, mechanical engineering, and ocean engineering. Research conducted by the faculty and their teams expose students to technology innovations that push the current state-of-the art of the disciplines. The College research efforts are supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Department of Defense (DOD), the Department of Transportation (DOT), the Department of Education (DOEd), the State of Florida, and industry. The FAU College of Engineering and Computer Science offers degrees with a modern twist that bear specializations in areas of national priority such as AI, cybersecurity, internet-of-things, transportation and supply chain management, and data science. New degree programs include Masters of Science in AI (first in Florida), Masters of Science in Data Science and Analytics, and the new Professional Masters of Science degree in computer science for working professionals. For more information about the College, please visit eng.fau.edu.

About Florida Atlantic University:

Florida Atlantic University, established in 1961, officially opened its doors in 1964 as the fifth public university in Florida. Today, the University serves more than 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students across six campuses located along the southeast Florida coast. In recent years, the University has doubled its research expenditures and outpaced its peers in student achievement rates. Through the coexistence of access and excellence, FAU embodies an innovative model where traditional achievement gaps vanish. FAU is designated a Hispanic-serving institution, ranked as a top public university by U.S. News & World Report and a High Research Activity institution by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. For more information, visit http://www.fau.edu.

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