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Drexel Researchers Claim Five NSF CAREER Awards

February 12, 2013

Five Drexel University faculty have earned recognition from the National Science Foundation for their respective research endeavors. The goals of these intrepid investigators range from improving underwater autonomous vehicles to helping emergency medical workers communicate; and include projects that will reimagine the way we create and access our collective knowledge as a society and help protect personal information online.

Drs. Andrea ForteJennifer Rode and Aleksandra Sarcevic, all faculty members in Drexel’s iSchool, College of Information Science and Technology, join a pair of engineering professors, Drs. Rachel Greenstadt and M. Ani Hsieh, in receipt of this prestigious honor and $2.2 million in research funding as part of the NSF’s Faculty Career Development Program.

“NSF CAREER award winners represent the nation's most promising new faculty in science and engineering,” said Dr. Deborah Crawford, Drexel’s senior vice provost for research. “Notably, all five Drexel awardees work in the field of computing, an area targeted for strategic investment and growth within our university – from cybersecurity to information science to robotics and beyond, computing is a field of increasing importance, nationally and internationally. And all five awardees are women in a field in which women have been traditionally underrepresented. We hope that the great achievements of these Drexel faculty will signal to girls and boys around the country that girls can and do excel in the field of computing.”

Sarcevic, who has served as an assistant professor in the iSchool since 2011, is developing ways to improve the networks of computers, telephones and video used by emergency medical workers to communicate important information quickly in emergency rooms and pediatric trauma units.

Rode is studying how grade-school-aged girls identify with technology and femininity in hopes of guiding the way designers meet the needs of female users. Through a collaborative process with students at an all-girls school, Rode will create a set of guidelines for technology designers that integrate feminist theory. As a member of the iSchool faculty since 2010, Rode has been diligently researching and instructing in the areas of educational inclusion in human-computer interaction, ubiquitous computing and feminist theory.

Forte, who also has been an assistant professor in the iSchool since 2010, is working with educators to help improve computing curricula. Her goal is to show how participatory information gathering can be a benefit to society and encourage students to contribute to sites like Wikipedia and Creative Commons as a civic duty. Forte’s research centers on society’s use of technology, including social media, and how various populations culturally adapt to using new technologies.

“The receipt of three CAREER awards to iSchool faculty members is unprecedented in our College’s history,” said Dr. David Fenske, dean of the iSchool. “Furthermore, Drs. Forte, Rode and Sarcevic make up three of the five Drexel University female faculty members who received NSF CAREER awards— demonstrating our institutional commitment to encouraging women in computing and technology. We applaud our colleagues for this tremendous achievement and look forward to their groundbreaking research in the coming years.”

Greenstadt has been a professor in Drexel’s Computer Science department since 2008 and is the director of the Privacy, Security and Automation Lab in the College of Engineering. As part of the CAREER grant, she is developing software that will give people a look at their “true” online identity and help them manage it to protect their privacy. The analytical tools that she’s creating will show users where sensitive information about them may exist online and will also tell them who has access to this information.

Hsieh, who has been a faculty member in the College of Engineering since 2008, leads the Scalable Autonomous Systems Laboratory in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Mechanics. Her CAREER award-funded research will focus on developing better navigation systems for autonomous underwater vehicles that track and map the dynamics of the ocean.

“We are proud of our faculty and it’s a great honor to see them join the ranks of the more than 40 Drexel engineering faculty members that have received CAREER awards,” said Dr. Joseph B. Hughes, dean of the College of Engineering.