ECE faculty win 2015 NSF CAREER Awards

Three faculty members from Rutgers’ Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering won 2015 Faculty Early Career Development awards from the National Science Foundation (NSF), one of the most prestigious NSF honors for outstanding you faculty. Assistant Professors Waheed Bajwa, Anand Sarwate, and Saman Zonouz were awarded for their research proposals in areas impacting large data sets, data security, cybersecurity of power grids.

Signal and Data Modeling

Bajwa will explore signal processing through the lens of geometry, seeking to establish a new, theoretical foundation for signal and data modeling, as well as design and analyze a family of methods for processing large, “dirty”, distributed data sets expected in the future. In the process, he will create a body of work that bridges the disciplines of signal processing, statistics, medical imaging, quantum mechanics, and machine learning. Though useful in many fields, the project will focus on applications for early cancer detection using in vivo fiber-bundle minimally invasive imaging data, activity recognition in chaotic trauma bays using received signal strength indicator data, and collaborative digital pathology using histopathology data. The work will modernize the Rutgers signal processing curriculum and improve training of undergraduate and graduate students for careers in data science.

Distributed Data Privacy

Sarwate’s research focuses on privacy-preserving learning for distributed data with a goal of bridging the gap between theoretically preserving privacy and actually doing so by developing practical algorithms. He seeks to understand the fundamental limits of private data sharing, design algorithms that make private approximations, create rules for combining these algorithms, and understand the consequences of sites having more complex privacy and sharing restrictions. The methods used to address these problems are a mix of mathematical techniques from statistics, computer science, and electrical engineering, and has applications in numerous fields, e.g. medical technology. Current technologies such as imaging and sequencing make it possible to gather massive amounts of information at increasingly lower costs. This research seeks to understand how to analyze and learn from sensitive data held at different locations (such as medical centers) in a way that quantifiably and rigorously protects the privacy of the data. 

Protecting Cyber-Physical Critical Infrastructures

By developing trustworthy and adaptive intrusion tolerant capabilities in projecting power grids from cyber-physical attacks, Zonouz plans to develop prevention, detection, and tolerance solutions. These solutions will consider the complex interdependencies among computational components and physical processes in real-time through integrated automated methods. Intrusion prevention techniques will minimize how attackable the power grid is through the use of built-in secure soft/hardware architectures; intrusion detection methods will monitor unusual events within operating systems and power system components to identify malicious behaviors in case an attack occurs; and control-theoretic intrusion tolerance algorithms will adapt to determine the optimal countermeasures to restart an infrastructure’s safe operations. Cyber-physical critical infrastructures provide the society with essential services, and the goal of Zonouz’s work will be to establish trustworthy operation of the next generation of complex power critical infrastructures.

Athina Petropulu, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering chair and professor, said though this is an important achievement for the three professors, it is only the start of what they will accomplish.

“I strongly believe that the prestigious NSF CAREER Award is only the beginning of a long list of recognitions that await Professors Bajwa, Sarwate, and Zonouz,” she said. “Our students are very fortunate to receive their education from these individuals who are defining the forefront of their respective fields. At this early stage of their career they have already emerged as intellectual leaders, having gained the respect of their scientific community for their contributions.”