NSF invests $30 million to pursue transformative advances at frontiers of computing and information


Credit: Photo by Vivek Boominathan of Rice University.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) announces three new Expeditions in Computing awards, each providing $10 million in funding over five years to multi-investigator research teams pursuing large-scale, far-reaching and potentially transformative research in computer and information science and engineering. This year's awards aim to enable game-changing advances in real-time decision making, quantum computing and non-invasive biomedical imaging.

"The Expeditions projects being awarded today are not only taking on challenging research problems in computer and information science and engineering, but they are also offering the potential to yield tremendous benefits to multiple sectors of our society," said Jim Kurose, NSF assistant director for Computer and Information Science and Engineering. "We are delighted to be able to fund these projects, which represent the largest single investments in our portfolio."

Since the inception of the program a decade ago, NSF has funded 22 Expeditions in Computing awards, including these three. Over the years, NSF-funded Expeditions awards have pursued foundational research in a range of areas spanning computing hardware and software, wireless networks, robotics, Big Data, artificial intelligence (AI), and synthetic biology and molecular programming, to name a few.

This year's projects aim to revolutionize the design and development of secure, autonomous systems. They also aim to more rapidly bring to market practical applications of quantum computing and enable non-invasive and easy-to-use diagnostic imaging of the human body that could increase the quality of healthcare in remote areas. Below are descriptions of the three projects funded this year, along with their principal investigators and associated institutions.

  • Secure, Real-Time Decisions on Live Data, Ion Stoica, University of California, Berkeley.

    A new era is rising in which AI systems will play an increasingly central role in people's lives by revolutionizing healthcare, transportation and the way business is conducted. This Expeditions project seeks to build AI decision systems to address these challenges by developing open source platforms, tools and algorithms for Real-time, Intelligent, Secure and Explainable (RISE) decisions. The project will also empower a large community of pioneers to build innovative applications and solutions, as well as broaden participation in research activities by allowing students and researchers across many disciplines to contribute.

  • Enabling Practical-scale Quantum Computing, Frederic Chong, The University of Chicago.

    Quantum computing sits at the precipice of a potentially game-changing revolution in the field of computer and information science. Quantum machines may soon be capable of performing computations that advance AI, computer security, chemistry and other fields in ways that are extremely difficult or even impossible for today's computers. The multi-institutional Enabling Practical-scale Quantum Computing (EPiQC) Expeditions project will help accelerate the potential of this new paradigm by reducing the gap that exists today between theoretical algorithms and practical quantum computing architectures. By developing new algorithms, software and hardware designs tailored to key properties of quantum technologies capable of 100 to 1,000 quantum bits — where a quantum bit is the single unit of quantum information — this project will increase the efficiency of practical quantum computation and aid in transitioning quantum computing out of the laboratory and into practical use. Partnering institutions include the Georgia Institute of Technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Princeton University and University of California, Santa Barbara.

  • Computational Photo-Scatterography: Unraveling Scattered Photons for Bio-imaging, Ashutosh Sabharwal, Rice University.

    Light scatters as it travels through the human body. As this happens, the spatial information from different points within the body becomes entangled. The principal goal of this Expeditions project is to develop a computational imaging system, called Computational Photo-Scatterography (CPS), that effectively unravels scattered light and facilitates non-invasive bio-imaging deep beneath the skin at cellular-level resolutions. The project has the potential to fundamentally transform medicine and healthcare delivery by enabling live views of cross sections of human anatomy simply by pointing a camera at any part of the body. Such an advancement would put individual users at the center of their healthcare experience and make them true partners in diagnosis, treatment and wellness. Beyond healthcare, the project could lead to cross-cutting applications in consumer imaging, automotive navigation, robotics, surveillance, atmospheric science, materials science and more. Partnering institutions include Carnegie Mellon University, Cornell University, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


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