2010-05-26 / Front Page

Six Queens College Profs. Receive Science Foundation Award

By Jason D. Antos

Students from Queens College, now assistant professors, became the recipients of the National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development Award. Matt Huenerfauth, computer science, Seogjoo Jang, chemistry & biochemistry, Jianbo Liu, chemistry & biochemistry, Heng Ji, computer science, Alexey Ovchinnikov mathematics and Hoeteck Wee, computer science. Students from Queens College, now assistant professors, became the recipients of the National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development Award. Matt Huenerfauth, computer science, Seogjoo Jang, chemistry & biochemistry, Jianbo Liu, chemistry & biochemistry, Heng Ji, computer science, Alexey Ovchinnikov mathematics and Hoeteck Wee, computer science. On May 12, six students from Queens College, 65-30 Kissena Blvd., became the recipients of the National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development Award. All of them are professionals hired in the departments of Computer Science, Chemistry & Biochemistry and Mathematics.  

“These substantial grants both honor and support outstanding research efforts by promising young scientists early in their careers,” Acting Dean of Research and Graduate Studies Richard Bodnar said. “The money also enables graduate and undergraduate students to do meaningful work in the labs of these faculty members.”

The six students, now assistant professors, are Matt Huenerfauth, computer science, Seogjoo Jang, chemistry & biochemistry, Jianbo Liu, chemistry & biochemistry, Heng Ji, computer science, Alexey Ovchinnikov mathematics and Hoeteck Wee, computer science.      

“Since I arrived on campus in 2002, there has been a dramatic change in the makeup of our faculty, as half has been hired since then,” Queens College President James Muyskens said. “This latest example represents an unprecedented achievement for these outstanding scientists, as well as for the college.”  

According to Huenerfauth, who is working on technology software that can be utilized by the deaf, a majority of deaf high school graduates in the U.S. have at best only a fourth-grade English reading level, but many of these adults have sophisticated fluency in ASL (American Sign Language). 

“Software that can present information in the form of ASL animations, or automatically translate English text to ASL would improve these persons’ access to Web sites, communication and information,” Huenerfauth said. His lab uses a range of motion-capture equipment including gloves with sensors, special body suits and eye-trackers that digitize the movements of persons performing American Sign Language (ASL) sentences, which differ in structure and word order from English.

“By analyzing the patterns in how humans perform ASL signs, we can produce animated virtual human characters that produce more realistic ASL movements,” Huenerfauth said.

Jang is conducting research on the development of computational methods for energy flow dynamics in soft optoelectronic molecular systems. His work promises to have a broad impact on the development of methods that could lead to new advances in optics as well as electronic and sensor devices. Jang was hired in 2006.

The research of Liu who was hired in 2006 focuses on the use of mass spectrometry and ion/molecule reaction techniques to study the reactions of biologically important molecules with reactive oxygen species.  Oxidation of bio-molecules is an important biological process associated with aging, disease and photodynamic therapy for cancer.  

“We also hope to discover and develop new methods and techniques in analytical chemistry and nano-technology,” Liu said.

 Ji, hired in 2008, is working on an important project whose implications will affect the way researchers automatically retrieve and track information from unstructured, machine-readable documents.  

“Ideally, you would initiate a search for information on a given topic and the program would automatically extract and track relevant information in all languages,” Ji said. “The program would then generate a summary of relevant findings.”   

 Ovchinnikov is developing efficient algorithms that can be used to solve differential and difference equations.

“These will have practical applications everywhere differential equations are used in physics, biology, chemistry, and the sciences in general,” Ovchinnikov, hired in 2009, said.

Wee’s specialty involves the Internet which is emerging as the main platform for computation, individuals have become increasingly reliant on cryptography to ensure privacy and security in their day-to-day activities and protect their personal information from unauthorized access.

“The design of many cryptosystems, however, do not adequately account for new computational and cryptographic attacks made possible by advances in quantum computing and complex protocol interactions on the Internet,” Wee said.

The focus of Wee’s project lies in the design and analysis of new cryptographic protocols that address these new attacks. He was hired in 2008.

 Founded in 1937, Queens College of the City University of New York (CUNY) has more than 20,000 students from over 140 nations and who speak scores of languages, creating an extraordinarily diverse and welcoming environment located on a beautiful, 77-acre campus in Flushing. The college was featured in U.S. News & World Report’s America’s Best Colleges for 2010. The magazine ranked the school among the top 10 public universities in its category, “Best Universities for Master’s.”  
 

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