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Assistant Professor Julia Stoyanovich Receives NSF CAREER Award

April 18, 2018

Drexel University College of Computing & Informatics (CCI) Assistant Professor of Computer Science Julia Stoyanovich, PhD recently received a National Science Foundation CAREER award — one of the NSF’s most prestigious and competitive awards in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through research, education and the integration of education and research. It comes with a federal grant for research and education activities for five consecutive years.

This award will fund her Portal project, which aims to establish the fundamental principles for management and analysis of evolving graphs – graphs that change over time, and to embody these principles in a scalable and usable system.

Graphs are used to represent a plethora of phenomena, including the Web, social networks, biological pathways, transportation networks, and semantic knowledge bases. Many interesting and important questions about graphs concern their evolution rather than their static state: Which Web pages are showing an increasing popularity trend? How does influence propagate in social networks? How does the utilization of transportation in a city change during the day and throughout the week? How does knowledge evolve? Formulating these questions as programs is currently beyond the skills of most data scientists. Executing such programs poses tremendous efficiency challenges, especially for graphs with billions of edges, and with non-trivial evolution rates. 

The Portal system is currently under development in the Drexel Database Group, and was released into the open source in late 2017.  A prominent set of use cases for Portal comes from data science for social good applications, including urban homelessness and analysis of transportation utilization and cost in cities. For example, Stoyanovich recently completed a project in which she used Portal to analyze data from the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission to identify hotspots where adding public transportation options, like ride-sharing solutions or addition of a bus route, would be beneficial.   

Portal is implemented on top of Apache Spark and is inter-operable with other Apache Spark libraries.  For further information, see the project web page: portaldb.github.io.