Current Research Projects (by faculty)

The funded projects listed below are active projects and the funded running total for the active projects is on the left navigational menu.


SCC-PG: Empathy and AI: Towards Equitable Microtransit
Eleni Bardaka ; Leila Hajibabai Dizaji ; Munindar Singh ; Crystal Chen ; Christopher Mayhorn

$150,000 by National Science Foundation (NSF)
10/ 1/2021 - 09/30/2022

The overarching goal of the proposed research is to identify, test, and evaluate technologically enabled and community-supported solutions for temporally distributing travel demand for on-demand public transportation services in an equitable manner, without the use of traditional pricing incentives. We are specifically interested in understanding whether enabling and incentivizing prosocial behavior, such as volunteering to shift one’s trip time to accommodate others, share a ride, and cooperate with other users to improve outcomes for the user community or to prioritize a transportation disadvantaged user, is a potential solution that is feasible and desirable for communities. If our preliminary analysis during the proposed planning grant (PG) supports the case of cooperative adaptive ride planning, we will investigate how prosocial behavior can be enabled in a trip scheduling environment and be facilitated through the use of artificial intelligence (AI), and we will test and evaluate the efficacy of this approach in improving service during an integrative research grant (IRG). No previous research has explored empathy and prosocial behavior in the context of traveler choices and decision-making.

Improving Equity in AP Computer Science Principles: Scaling Beauty and Joy of Computing
Tiffany Barnes

$249,997 by Education Development Center, Inc.
09/ 1/2021 - 12/31/2025

This project will support implementation and study of the Beauty and Joy of Computing (BJC) curriculum. We aim to increase implementation of BJC in New England states and beyond particularly in high-need districts. We will study the effects of BJC implementation on the participation of girls, Black, Latinx and low-income students.

Collaborative Research: Beyond CS Principles:Engaging Female High School Students in New Frontiers of Computing
Tiffany Barnes

$555,000 by National Science Foundation (NSF)
05/ 1/2020 - 04/30/2023

There is a real need for a follow-on course once high school students, and especially girls, to take after their interest in computing has been elevated by the new Computer Science principles course. We proposed to design and study Beyond CSP, a new course focused on CS concepts that have broad appeal but are traditionally considered advanced and are only taught to CS majors in college. The course topics will include distributed computing, computer networking, cybersecurity, machine learning, the Internet of Things and others. We theorize that a course that teaches these advanced computational methods in disciplinary contexts across a variety of STEAM fields, will make the connection to skills that a modern workforce needs readily apparent. Moreover, it will also have a much broader appeal to young learners. In fact, we propose to tailor the curriculum especially to appeal to girls by focusing on specific disciplines such as healthcare and climate change, and emphasizing collaboration and team work.

REU Site: Socially Relevant Computing and Analytics
Tiffany Barnes

$405,000 by National Science Foundation (NSF)
03/ 1/2020 - 02/28/2023

The REU Site at NC State University will immerse a diverse group of undergraduates in a vibrant research community of faculty and graduate students building and analyzing cutting-edge human-centric applications including games, tutors, and mobile apps. We will recruit students from underrepresented groups and colleges and universities with limited research opportunities through the STARS Computing Corps, an NSF-funded national consortium of institutions dedicated to broadening participation in computing. Using the Affinity Research Groups and STARS Training for REUs models, we will engage faculty and graduate student mentors with undergraduates to create a supportive culture of collaboration while promoting individual contributions to research through just-in-time training for both mentors and students throughout the summer.

Collaborative Research: BPC-AE: STARS: Catalyzing Action-Oriented Academic Communities for Broadening Participation in Computing
Tiffany Barnes ; Veronica Catete

$652,289 by National Science Foundation (NSF)
10/ 1/2021 - 09/30/2024

The STARS Computing Corps Alliance for Broadening Participation in Computing (BPC) will serve as national resource for transforming computer science education through 1) building capacity among faculty and students for creating an equitable and inclusive learning climate in their computing departments, 2) building capacity among faculty and students for conducting research and taking action to address BPC challenges, and 3) promoting persistence in computing degree programs, particularly among groups that are underrepresented in computing. A multi-year study provides evidence that shows that the STARS Computing Corps approach is effective for supporting these goals, and indicates the value of a community of practice that engages computing faculty and students at institutions of higher education (IHEs) with a shared commitment to take action to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in computing. This proposal seeks to further develop STARS as a national resource that builds broader capacity for research and practice, ignites action, and fosters a wider academic community centered on building capacity for inclusive computing education experiences, environments, and practices in higher education.

Collaborative Research: Conference: 2022 CISE Education and Workforce PI and Community Meetings
Tiffany Barnes ; Veronica Catete

$17,726 by National Science Foundation (NSF)
08/15/2022 - 01/31/2024

Conference Proposal: 2022 CISE EWF PI Meeting and REU Site PI meeting

RET Site: Socially Relevant Computing and Analytics
Tiffany Barnes ; Collin Lynch ; Veronica Catete

$598,913 by National Science Foundation (NSF)
04/15/2021 - 03/31/2024

The RET Site at NC State University will immerse a diverse group of teachers in a vibrant research community building and analyzing cutting-edge socially relevant and human-centered applications including games, tutors, and analytics platforms. We will recruit teacher teams to include at least one who is learning to teach introductory computer science (e.g. Computer Science Principles), as well as STEM teachers and one teacher or undergraduate with significant programming experience. Teachers will learn about the socially relevant applications of computing and how computer science can be used within almost all careers, and they will develop lessons that help raise student interest in computing while teaching disciplinary content. We will connect teachers to resources from the STARS Computing Corps, an NSF-funded national consortium of institutions dedicated to broadening participation in computing. We will to create a supportive culture of collaboration while promoting individual contributions to research through just-in-time training throughout the summer.

Collaborative Research: Scaling the Early Research Scholars Program
Veronica Catete ; Bita Akram ; Sarah Heckman ; Tiffany Barnes ; Tzvetelina Battestilli

$20,000 by University of California - San Diego
09/21/2020 - 08/31/2023

The Early Research Scholars Program (ERSP) is a group-based, dual-mentored research structure designed to provide a supportive and inclusive research experience using equity-based practices to grow the confidence and foundational skills of early-career students, particularly African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans and women. For this NSF subaward from UC San Diego, we plan to add ERSP to our course catalog and start implementing it in Fall 2021. As part of their full-year apprenticeship, teams of students will learn about graduate school, be matched to research mentors, observe the mentor's lab, participate in the ERSP course, and propose an independent research project.

Generalizing Data-Driven Technologies to Improve Individualized STEM Instruction by Intelligent Tutors
Min Chi ; Tiffany Barnes ; Thomason Price

$1,999,578 by National Science Foundation (NSF)
08/15/2020 - 07/31/2025

This project will develop generalizable data-driven tools that addresses the conceptually and practically complex activity of constructing adaptive support for individualized learning in STEM domains.

Optimizing Population Health Outcomes in Diabetic Retinopathy Through Personalized and Scalable Screening Strategies
Min Chi ; Landon Grace ; Anne McLaughlin ; Julie Ivy ; Maria Mayorga

$445,790 by Retinal Care
09/ 1/2021 - 08/31/2023

Diabetic retinopathy (DR) is expected to affect over 11 million people in the US by 2030 and is the leading cause of blindness in working age Americans, despite being almost entirely preventable with timely detection, treatment, and adherence to follow-up care. To reach the over 30 million adults living with diabetes in the US, the Retinal Care-DR program is designed to eliminate the deficiencies of the current care delivery model by implementing a first-of-its-kind, end-to-end solution for DR care and blindness prevention. This will be accomplished through the application of machine learning to prioritize patients for care coordination by DR risk, development of patient-specific engagement strategies to identify and modify adherence behaviors, implementation of agent-based simulation to maximize patient health outcomes while minimizing the cost of care coordination, and the identification of care coordination strategies that result in higher rates of screening using a user-centered design process.

IUCRC Phase I NC State University: Center for Accelerated Real Time Analytics (CARTA)
Rada Chirkova

$747,647 by National Science Foundation (NSF)
06/ 1/2018 - 05/31/2023

Real-time analytics is the leading edge of a smart data revolution, pushed by Internet advances in sensor hardware on one side, and AI/ML streaming acceleration on the other. We propose creation of a Center of Accelerated Real Time Analytics (CARTA) to explore the realm streaming applications of analytics. This center will be lead by University of Maryland, Baltimore County with partners from NCSU, Rutgers, and other affiliated universities. The proposed center will work with next generation hardware technologies, like the IBM Minsky with on board GPU accelerated processors and Flash RAM, a Smart Cyber Physical Sensor Systems to build Cognitive Analytics systems and Active storage devices for real time analytics. This will lead to the automated ingestion and simultaneous analytics of Big Datasets generated in various domains including Cyberspace, Healthcare, Internet of Things (IoT) and the Scientific arena, and the creation of self learning, self correcting “smart” systems. At the core of these technologies are the techniques of data wrangling that enable this end-to-end real-time data processing and the infrastructure of the next generation of high-performance analytics systems.

Phase I IUCRC NC State University: Center for Accelerated Real Time Analytics (CARTA)
Rada Chirkova

$32,000 by National Science Foundation (NSF)
06/ 1/2018 - 05/31/2023

Real-time analytics is the leading edge of a smart data revolution, pushed by Internet advances in sensor hardware on one side, and AI/ML streaming acceleration on the other. We propose creation of a Center of Accelerated Real Time Analytics (CARTA) to explore the realm streaming applications of analytics. This center will be lead by University of Maryland, Baltimore County with partners from NCSU, Rutgers, and other affiliated universities. The proposed center will work with next generation hardware technologies, like the IBM Minsky with on board GPU accelerated processors and Flash RAM, a Smart Cyber Physical Sensor Systems to build Cognitive Analytics systems and Active storage devices for real time analytics. This will lead to the automated ingestion and simultaneous analytics of Big Datasets generated in various domains including Cyberspace, Healthcare, Internet of Things (IoT) and the Scientific arena, and the creation of self learning, self correcting “smart” systems. At the core of these technologies are the techniques of data wrangling that enable this end-to-end real-time data processing and the infrastructure of the next generation of high-performance analytics systems.

Collaborative Research: IMR: MM-1C: Privacy-preserving IoT Analytics and Behavior Prediction on Network Edge
Anupam Das

$300,004 by National Science Foundation (NSF)
10/ 1/2022 - 09/30/2025

Recent years have seen a surge in popularity in smart home IoT products, and with the ongoing pandemic, people are spending more time interacting with such devices. However, it is unclear whether and how these IoT devices affect the security, privacy, and performance of the home network as well as the access network. In this proposal, we focus on developing privacy-preserving IoT analytics to help network providers allocate network resources accordingly and, at the same time, help consumers identify potential anomalous behavior.

Challenges and Opportunities in Noise-Aware Implementations of Quantum Field Theories on Near-Term Quantum Computing Hardware
Patrick Dreher ; Alexander Kemper

$385,000 by Oak Ridge National Laboratories - UT-Battelle LLC
10/21/2019 - 10/31/2022

Quantum computing (QC) offers the potential to explore how recent advances in lattice field theories (LFT) can potentially explore aspects of HEP that have been inaccessible using digital computers. Unfortunately these quantum computers have noise and systematic errors that can complicate the performance of basic quantum field theory (QFT) implementations. Very little effort has been directed to understand how these factors impact LFT simulations on QC platforms. This proposal will explore how noise and systematic errors may be identified and mitigated to extend the coherence lifetimes of the qubits and capabilities of HEP LFT simulations.

Collaborative Research: SaTC: CORE: Medium: Enabling Practically Secure Cellular Infrastructure
William Enck

$601,966 by National Science Foundation (NSF)
01/ 1/2022 - 12/31/2024

The global cellular telecommunication system is critical infrastructure that has become a ubiquitous platform for Internet connectivity supporting a wide range of use cases for both consumers and industry. We are now on the cusp of widespread adoption of 5G technology. While 5G is widely marketed for its gigabit per second rates and ultra-low latency, it also also fundamentally changes the internal network architecture, providing dynamic provisioning of software-defined services that offer enhanced control to network tenants including virtual operators and enterprises. This new threat model necessitates deep investigation of the many technical components that comprise the cellular system. Whereas several initial studies have formally modeled and evaluated the security of 5G cryptographic protocols, little is known about the security of software and hardware systems that implement them. To this end, the goal of this work is to aid mobile network operators in deploying secure cellular systems through the development of tools and techniques that extract, model, and analyze security-sensitive logic of the source and binary code that exists within cellular system functional entities.

Collaborative Research: Conference: 2022 Secure and Trustworthy Cyberspace PI Meeting
William Enck

$47,158 by National Science Foundation (NSF)
02/ 1/2022 - 01/31/2023

Holding a large PI meeting like the proposed SaTC PIs meeting is a complex undertak-ing, and the time commitment for the participating PIs is considerable. As such, it is important that such meetings only be held when the attendees and community as a whole will benefit substantially.The proposed PI meeting for the NSF SaTC program would provide a valuable venue for SaTC researchers to engage with others in the community and in other areas, as well as to think about the broader issues in cybersecurity research and education. These interactions are unlikely to occur at other research conferences that are organized around narrow research disciplines and focus on presenting recent works.

SaTC: CORE: Small: Detecting Vulnerabilities and Remediations in Software Dependencies
William Enck ; Bradley Reaves

$499,928 by National Science Foundation (NSF)
10/ 1/2020 - 09/30/2023

The goal of this work is to detect, measure, and remediate a software project's use of external, open source software dependencies with security flaws. First,we will introduce two new static analysis primitives: a global dependency graph (GDG) and a global vulnerable-dependency graph (GVDG) to simplify the detection and measurement of the extent and effects of vulnerable dependencies. We will then create novel techniques for analyzing code and textual artifacts of software projects to identify when a new version has fixed a vulnerability,even if a security advisory has not been announced. In doing so, we will help developers know when dependencies must be updated, ultimately leading to more secure software.

Defining Security Policy in Distributed Environments using Network Views
William Enck ; Bradley Reaves

$1,033,306 by US Navy-Office Of Naval Research
12/ 1/2019 - 11/30/2022

Existing networking technologies are primarily focused on functionality, not security. Consequently, requirements of these technologies, such as fixed network topologies, lead to rigid architectures that fail to enable the network access control requirements of current and future computing environments. We propose the creation of a novel primitive called network views that allows a physical or virtual host to have a different set of accessible peers,regardless of network address or topological placement of those peers. We seek to explore and characterize the utility and practicality of network views in different network environments, ranging from traditional LANs to multi-site, multi-tenant networks such as those emerging in cloud and cellular networks. Our proposed design combines concepts from software-defined networking (SDN),operating systems access control, and distributed consensus protocols. Through these efforts, we seek to provide a new security foundation for the growing security needs of both public and private sector network operations.

Gamification of Training in Emerging Acquisition Methods
Robert Handfield ; Arnav Jhala

$39,231 by Stevens Institute of Technology
02/25/2022 - 09/30/2022

1) Literature review of gamification of training, particularly in business or procurement fields. 2) Identify industry contacts that were used for interviews or focus groups to inform phase I products (organization names, points of contact, email and phone numbers) 3) Develop an attribute map of ideal game attributes for acquisition training based on stakeholder and expert interviews (in coordination with NPS MBA team) (link: https://executiveeducation.wharton.upenn.edu/thought-leadership/wharton-at-work/2012/07/attribute-map-2/#:~:text=An%20Attribute%20Map%20is%20a,position%20with%20respect%20to%20competitors.) 4) Identify other game features or design considerations gathered through stakeholder interviews or expert interviews. 5) Develop case vignettes of games being used in commercial or public business training to date. 6) Provide user feedback from MBA students playing the game prototype developed at NPS (will be provided to MBA students as an executable file). 7) Complete IRB preparation required for future Phase II experiments at NC State. 8) Finalize contact list and short capabilities statement for potential commercial partners for future game development at NC State.

Collaborative Research: Building High-Quality K-12 CS Education Research Capacity Across an Outcome Framework of Equitable Capacity, Access, Participation, and Experience
Sarah Heckman

$202,645 by National Science Foundation (NSF)
09/ 1/2021 - 08/31/2024

The expansion of K-12 Computing Education Research (CER) is quickly following the expansion of computing education in primary and secondary schools, yet much remains to be learned about the effectiveness of the implementation and the quality of evidence produced by research. While the integration of computing education into K-12 in the United States is still in its infancy, so is the research necessary for identifying promising practices for educational outcomes across a variety of populations, including those historically underserved and marginalized by education. The proposal seeks to 1) summarize and frame prior equitable K-12 CS education research against the areas of capacity, access, participation, and experience as defined by the CAPE framework; 2) develop publicly-available recommendations and resources along the CAPE framework for expanding coverage of equitable K-12 computing education research; and 3) design and pilot workshops to train K-12 education research in methods and practice to support robust evidence-based research results that can inform practice.

Computer Science Pathways: A Diagnostic Grant to Support Retention and Persistence
Sarah Heckman ; Tzvetelina Battestilli ; Veronica Catete

$59,917 by Northeastern University
01/25/2022 - 01/24/2024

The NC State Computer Science Department had doubled undergraduate enrollments and the percentage of women in our program between 2010 and 2020. With this growth, we are challenged with understanding persistence and retention of our students, particularly women. The goal of the diagnostic grant program is to collect and analyze demographic data to better understand where our students are coming from, and if they leave the program, where do they go. The results of the data analysis will provide insights into how we can better support our students to increase persistence, retention, and success.

Educating the Current and Future Bioindustrial Workforce: Molecular Biotechnology, Bioprocessing Fundamentals, and Responsible Innovation
Arnav Jhala

$249,961 by Bioindustrial Manufacturing and Design Ecosystem (BioMADE)
01/ 1/2022 - 12/31/2023

Biomanufacturing differs from chemical manufacturing as the process operations are significantly different in deference to the lability of biomolecules and cells. Biomanufacturing also differs in the expertise needed for designing, developing and implementing bioprocesses as well as the nature of safety and ethical issues that must be addressed. In the nascent industrial biotechnology sector, the pace of change and innovation, along with societal impacts, must be part and parcel of workforce training and education. Rather than develop separate educational programs for molecular biotechnology, bioprocessing and the ethical issues related to the field, we propose to provide an integrated platform, based on the best pedagogical practices and educational technologies (e.g., including the use of augmented reality for remote laboratory training) that brings workers up-to-speed and helps them maintain the needed expertise to be effective in this emerging sector. BIT (https://biotech.ncsu.edu/), BTEC (www.btec.ncsu.edu) and GES (https://research.ncsu.edu/ges/) at NC State have considerable experience in this type of education for our campus and beyond, and propose to leverage this experience to contribute to the BioMADE initiative. This integrated educational training will help build a sustainable, domestic, end-to-end bioindustrial manufacturing ecosystem that will enable domestic bioindustrial manufacturing at all scales, develop technologies to enhance U.S. bioindustrial competitiveness, de-risk investment in relevant infrastructure, and expand the biomanufacturing workforce to realize the economic promise of industrial biotechnology. Recent attention to issues of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), and broader societal awakenings of academic and corporate responsibility have raised important questions that reach well beyond our laboratories, classrooms, manufacturing facilities, and into society. The current and future biomanufacturing workforce, need to be prepared for these complexities. The workforce training and education package developed here will be sensitive to student/worker time commitment and be maintained such that emerging developments and innovations can be readily incorporated.

Transferring Artificial Intelligence (AI) Model to CLEAR Program for enhanced Lessons Learned/Best Practice Selection
Arnav Jhala ; Edward Jaselskis

$57,298 by NC Department of Transportation
03/15/2022 - 05/14/2023

The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) created a new knowledge repository called Communicate Lessons, Exchange Advice, Record (CLEAR) as an official platform to store and retrieve knowledge. We will transfer a construction domain language model to improve the search capabilities of CLEAR database. A construction language inference model has already been developed as a prototype that can make meaningful connections between lessons learned and best practices within the construction domain vocabulary. A proof of concept will be validated by project managers on a set of pre-selected projects by the NCDOT Value Management Office.

SHF: Small: Inter­-Request Workflow and Dataflow in Web Applications: a Modeling Framework and its Applications
Guoliang Jin

$350,000 by National Science Foundation (NSF)
08/15/2020 - 07/31/2023

Web applications play an important role in the current software ecosystem, and these web applications are usually built with certain supporting frameworks. While these frameworks ease the development of web applications, they bring several challenges to the analysis of web applications. Existing techniques analyze each request independently leading to suboptimal results. In this project, we propose inter-request analysis to go beyond the boundaries of individual requests, design a framework that can capture and express inter-request data and control dependencies, and develop several program analyses leveraging the framework for performance bug diagnosis, performance optimization, and flow integrity monitoring.

STC: Science and Technologies for Phosphorus Sustainability (STEPS) Center
Jacob Jones ; Rada Chirkova

$4,999,334 by National Science Foundation (NSF)
01/ 1/2022 - 09/30/2023

The Science and Technologies for Phosphorus Sustainability (STEPS) Center is a convergence research hub for addressing the fundamental challenges associated with phosphorus sustainability. The vision of STEPS is to develop new scientific and technological solutions to regulating, recovering and reusing phosphorus that can readily be adopted by society through fundamental research conducted by a broad, highly interdisciplinary team. Key outcomes include new atomic-level knowledge of phosphorus interactions with engineered and natural materials, new understanding of phosphorus mobility at industrial, farm, and landscape scales, and prioritization of best management practices and strategies drawn from diverse stakeholder perspectives. Ultimately, STEPS will provide new scientific understanding, enabling new technologies, and transformative improvements in phosphorus sustainability.

CAREER: Web Evolution and Emerging Threats
Alexandros Kapravelos

$561,188 by National Science Foundation (NSF)
07/ 1/2021 - 06/30/2026

We study the web differently from how users explore it, as browsers are not meant to be monitoring tools. Researchers build either ad-hoc solutions or use high-level information from the browser that is inadequate to identify some of the most advanced web attacks. This research aims at building the fundamental blocks for studying an increasingly complex web by developing a monitoring platform that sheds light into the inner workings of modern browsers and websites. Our research outcomes will allow any researcher, web developer or web user to understand better how the web works.

Tools and Techniques to Improve the Granularity and Usability of Web Application Debloating
Alexandros Kapravelos

$389,312 by Arizona State University
02/11/2021 - 02/10/2023

Modern web applications are the cornerstone of much of our online life. Unfortunately, web appli- cations are a complex mix of different technology stacks (e.g., HTML, JavaScript, and PHP), and this complexity breeds security vulnerabilities that allow an adversary to launch successful attacks. Thus, we require new approaches and techniques to tame the complexity that seems inherent to web applications. Building on the success and impact of our existing XS-SHREDDER efforts, the project proposed herein will research and develop novel, complementary, and synergistic capabilities that will improve the result and applicability of debloating to all layers of the web-application stack. These results will be demonstrated with proof-of-concept prototypes that we will quantitatively evaluate based on the reduction of code and known vulnerabilities. At the same time these prototypes should facilitate easy transition to customers within the Navy and beyond.

Collaborative Research: SaTC: CORE: Medium: Defending against Emerging Stateless Web Tracking
Alexandros Kapravelos ; Anupam Das

$799,081 by National Science Foundation (NSF)
06/15/2022 - 05/31/2026

Fingerprinting has been a known threat to web privacy for over a decade. Yet, automated detection of fingerprinting methods and scripts has been lacking the properties for protecting web users from such an evolving web threat. Our proposed work aims to provide novel detection methods for browser fingerprinting both at its core, the browser and the evolution of its APIs, and at the page level, via dynamic analysis ofJavaScript. We also propose developing countermeasures that are capable of performing more fine-grained blocking not only at the script level, but also at the API level where an instance of a script/API will be blocked depending on inferring the underlying intent behind executing the script or accessing the API.

AI Institute for Engaged Learning
James Lester, II

$19,996,290 by National Science Foundation (NSF)
10/ 1/2021 - 09/30/2026

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has emerged as a foundational technology that is profoundly reshaping society. With accelerating advances in a wide array of capabilities including natural language processing, computer vision, and machine learning, AI is quickly finding broad applications in every sector of society. Critically, AI holds significant transformative potential for improving human learning. This National Artificial Intelligence (AI) Research Institutes proposal centers on the establishment of the Institute for an AI-Engaged Future of Learning. Driven by a learner-centered vision of the potential of AI-augmented learning, the ENGAGE AI Institute will conduct (1) foundational AI research on natural language technologies, computer vision, and machine learning and (2) use-inspired AI research on AI-augmented learning, thereby creating learning experiences specifically designed to promote student engagement in formal and informal learning settings. The ENGAGE AI Institute brings together an exceptional interdisciplinary team spanning five organizations with deep expertise in AI and education, including four universities (North Carolina State University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Vanderbilt University, and Indiana University) and Digital Promise, which will serve a “nexus” role for the Institute. The Institute will create AI-augmented learning technologies with specific foci on supporting two forms of engaging collaborative inquiry learning experiences: collaborative learning (problem solving and learning that play out in groups) and embodied learning (learning processes that are grounded in the interplay between the body, movement, and senses). The Institute will focus on AI-driven narrative-centered learning environments that create engaging story-based problem-solving experiences to support collaborative inquiry learning. The Institute will explore AI-augmented learning that operates at three levels: individuals, small groups, and larger groups within a range of educational contexts (e.g., classrooms, museums).

Collaborative Research: ExplainIt: Improving Student Learning with Explanation-based Classroom Response Systems
James Lester, II ; Wookhee Min

$1,599,645 by National Science Foundation (NSF)
10/15/2021 - 09/30/2025

The overarching objective of this project is to investigate how explanation-based classroom response systems can significantly improve student learning in STEM undergraduate education. It has been widely demonstrated that students who engage in self-explanation learn much more effectively than students who do not engage in self-explanation. By explaining concepts and examples as they learn, students trigger the self-explanation effect, which causes them to actively probe their own understanding, to learn much more deeply. However, students in undergraduate STEM courses have limited opportunity to engage in self-explanation. Building on our prior NSF-supported research on natural language processing-based STEM learning environments, we will investigate student learning in undergraduate STEM classrooms with an explanation-based classroom response system. The system will fundamentally change classroom dynamics by supporting both students and instructors. It will support students by instantly providing realtime formative assessment of their explanations. It will support instructors by instantly providing a summary and analysis of students’ explanations in aggregate, which will enable instructors to make immediate adjustments to pedagogy. Together, these benefits will synergistically lead to improved student learning and stronger student engagement in STEM classrooms.

Improving Conceptual Knowledge in Upper Elementary Science with Scaffolded Sketch-Based Modeling
James Lester, II ; Bradford Mott

$1,999,050 by US Dept. of Education (DED)
08/ 1/2021 - 07/31/2025

It has long been recognized that drawing can be a powerful approach to learning. Learning-by-drawing activates a complex set of cognitive processes that requires students to deeply engage with a subject matter. The project centers on the design, development, iterative refinement, and investigation of a sketch-based science learning environment. Specifically, the project will focus on the development and piloting of a sketch-based science learning environment to support students’ conceptual understanding of science with an emphasis on modeling. The project will culminate in a pilot study to investigate the effectiveness of the sketch-based learning environment for improving students’ factual understanding, their inferential understanding, and their ability to engage in science modeling. By utilizing a mixed methods approach integrating quantitative and qualitative work with learning analytics, it is anticipated that the project will yield theoretically-driven, empirically-based advances in sketch-based science learning environments that significantly improve conceptual understanding of science in upper elementary students.

Collaborative Research: FW-HTF: Augmented Cognition for Teaching: Transforming Teacher Work with Intelligent Cognitive Assistants
James Lester, II ; Bradford Mott

$1,499,736 by National Science Foundation (NSF)
10/ 1/2018 - 09/30/2022

Effective teaching is the cornerstone of K-12 education. However, effective teaching occurs in complex workplaces that require teachers to cope with the real-time demands of providing effective learning experiences for large classrooms of students by skillfully bringing to bear their expertise in pedagogy and classroom management. Although there is enormous potential for enhancing teaching with technology-rich support that leverages artificial intelligence (AI), limited work has been done to investigate how emerging AI technologies can bring about fundamental improvements to the teaching profession. With recent advances in AI technologies for natural language processing, machine learning, and user-adaptive support, the time is ripe for transforming the professional lives of teachers. The objective of the proposed research is to design, develop, and evaluate the Intelligent-Augmented Cognition for Teaching (I-ACT) framework featuring intelligent cognitive assistants for K-12 teachers. A unique feature of I-ACT afforded by recent advances in machine learning will be its ability to optimize teacher support for collaborative learning at the individual student, group, and classroom levels

Collaborative Research: CNS Core: SMALL: DrGPU: Optimizing GPU Programs via Novel Profiling Techniques
Xu Liu

$249,473 by National Science Foundation (NSF)
10/ 1/2021 - 09/30/2024

GPUs have become common in today’s computing systems. However, it is challenging to efficiently map software applications to GPU architectures. Performance inefficiencies can hide deep in heterogeneous code bases, impeding applications from obtaining bare-metal performance. In this project, we will develop DrGPU to systematically study the performance inefficiencies in heterogeneous CPU-GPU systems with novel measurement, analysis, and optimization techniques.

Collaborative Research:CNS Core:Small:Towards Efficient Cloud Services
Xu Liu

$249,840 by National Science Foundation (NSF)
08/19/2020 - 09/30/2023

Cloud environments employ various microservices and serverless functions to handle web or database requests. Although cloud provides a uniformed infrastructure for resource management, it can easily suffer from performance inefficiency in the entire cloud software stack. To address this issue, we will develop CloudProf. This project has the following goals. First, it will break the abstraction introduced by the runtime systems of managed languages for intra-application optimization. Second, it will identify problematic interactions across microservices for inter-service optimization. Third, it will break the abstraction introduced by virtual machines and containers for the optimization of the entire cloud software stack.

Formative Feedback for Writing
Collin Lynch

$499,973 by Education Testing Service
07/ 1/2021 - 06/30/2025

This collaborative project between NCSU and ETS is focused on developing new noninvasive process-based measurements for students engagement with writing tasks, including analyses of their writing quality, working habits, and responses to feedback. As part of this project we will develop a secure instrumented platform for online writing tasks that will provide analytical tools for instructors and researchers to monitor and evaluate student's work.

IGE: Learning the Entire Pipeline: Analyzing and Improving Graduate Engineering Education through Communities of Practice
Collin Lynch Co-PI ; Cesar Delgado ; Kook Han

$332,184 by National Science Foundation (NSF)
08/15/2021 - 07/31/2023

Recent policy documents for graduate STEM education note that engineering programs do not adequately help students develop abilities to work in collaborative and team settings, to communicate to diverse audiences, and to deal with diverse opinions, ideas, and backgrounds. Additionally, the emergence of new fields at the interface of two or more disciplines requires a workforce with the ability to work collaboratively with people from different disciplines. Moreover, most engineering problems in the field involve multiple heterogeneous teams working on subsystems that need to be integrated as a working system. Students need to learn how to work within and across teams - and disciplines. In this project we seek to improve graduate engineering education by studying students’ interactions and learning within and across collaborative groups, when integrating into professional engineering endeavors, and when engaged in interdisciplinary projects, in order to identify promising approaches, identify obstacles, and generate theory for the effective preparation for the workforce of graduate engineering students. We are guided by the theoretical framework of communities of practice (CoP), which has a strong emphasis on collaboration, diverse groups and audiences, and the need to communicate across disciplinary and cultural backgrounds. The CoP framework also provides mechanisms for the enculturation of novices into disciplinary groups, as well as for the dissemination of ideas across such groups. We have selected three courses from three different departments to foster and study this CoP approach. The selected classes afford CoP-guided studies of different grain sizes, using diverse concepts from the CoP framework, and in a variety of disciplines. Through this approach that involves various settings and granularities, we seek to develop a broader view of CoPs in engineering that can build theory for this field and guide implementation across subfields of engineering education.

CAREER: Explorable Formal Models of Privacy Policies and Regulations
Christopher Martens

$555,000 by National Science Foundation (NSF)
06/15/2019 - 05/31/2024

Regulatory policies, especially those governing data privacy, must satisfy seemingly contradictory requirements of precision and transparency. Prior research on usable privacy has led to annotating policies with information designed to assist user understanding; meanwhile, the desire for provable guarantees generated efforts on encoding policies in formal logic to answer questions about specific scenarios. The PI proposes to unify these approaches through formalizations amenable to analysis, interactive exploration, and question-answering. This work will enable stakeholders to formulate and answer questions about regulations, protocols, and scenarios, to generate counterexamples and recommendations for policy repair, leading to improved understanding and minimized risk.Impact Tabs/Community

CAREER: Explorable Formal Models of Privacy Policies and Regulations (Supplement)
Christopher Martens

$16,000 by National Science Foundation (NSF)
06/15/2019 - 05/31/2024

Regulatory policies, especially those governing data privacy, must satisfy seemingly contradictory requirements of precision and transparency. Prior research on usable privacy has led to annotating policies with information designed to assist user understanding; meanwhile, the desire for provable guarantees generated efforts on encoding policies in formal logic to answer questions about specific scenarios. The PI proposes to unify these approaches through formalizations amenable to analysis, interactive exploration, and question-answering. This work will enable stakeholders to formulate and answer questions about regulations, protocols, and scenarios, to generate counterexamples and recommendations for policy repair, leading to improved understanding and minimized risk.Impact Tabs/Community

Simulating Social Influence Based on Real-World Geographic Data: Emergent Narratives and Interactive Hypothesis Testing
Christopher Martens

$577,574 by US Air Force - Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR)
09/15/2020 - 09/14/2023

Computers are increasingly being used to simulate and analyze complex social phenomena, but do not account geographical, cultural, economic, and sociopolitical systems that influence social relationships. We identify the need to account for real-world, localized information in social simulation. Our research objectives are to create computational models of social influence and opinion change that support believable social simulation and facilitate novel insights for experts through scaffolded interaction. This project, if successful, will contribute fundamental advances in computational social science, including advances individually in both computer science and social science as well as bidirectional exchange of ideas across disciplines.

Collaborative Research: Cyberinfrastructure for Robust Learning of Interconnected Knowledge
Noboru Matsuda

$386,884 by National Science Foundation (NSF)
07/15/2020 - 06/30/2023

We propose to develop learning-engineering methods to efficiently build an effective online STEM learning environment, in the form of adaptive online courseware called CyberBook, to promote robust mathematics learning with understanding. The proposed CyberBook is a combination of traditional online courseware (that promotes conceptual understanding) and intelligent tutoring systems (that support guided learning-by-doing). We hypothesize that these two well-established technologies can be combined by identifying the shared latent learning constructs, i.e., skills and concepts to be learned. We further hypothesize that the resulting cyberlearning space will promote synergetic learning that, by definition, will fertilize the desired proficiency.

Collaborative Research: Cyberinfrastructure for Robust Learning of Interconnected Knowledge
Noboru Matsuda

$16,000 by National Science Foundation (NSF)
07/15/2020 - 06/30/2023

We propose to develop learning-engineering methods to efficiently build an effective online STEM learning environment, in the form of adaptive online courseware called CyberBook, to promote robust mathematics learning with understanding. The proposed CyberBook is a combination of traditional online courseware (that promotes conceptual understanding) and intelligent tutoring systems (that support guided learning-by-doing). We hypothesize that these two well-established technologies can be combined by identifying the shared latent learning constructs, i.e., skills and concepts to be learned. We further hypothesize that the resulting cyberlearning space will promote synergetic learning that, by definition, will fertilize the desired proficiency. This supplement is for an REU experience for students.

SHF:Small: Mega Transfer: On the Value of Learning from 10,000+ Software Projects
Timothy Menzies

$472,024 by National Science Foundation (NSF)
10/ 1/2019 - 09/30/2022

Software analytics is a workflow that distills large amounts of low-value data into small chunks of very high-value data. A typical research paper in software analytics studies less than a few dozen projects. Such small samples can never be representative of something as diverse as software engineering. Perhaps it is time to stop making limited conclusions from tiny sets of software projects. To that end, we 3ill apply innovative transfer learning methods (based on very fast clustering and transfer learners based on very fast stream mining algorithms that use incremental hyperparameter optimizers) to the 10,000+ projects currently in Github.

Elements: Can Empirical SE be Adapted to Computational Science?
Timothy Menzies

$592,129 by National Science Foundation (NSF)
10/ 1/2019 - 09/30/2022

Standard methods in empirical software engineering (SE) needs to be adapted before it can be safely deployed in other domains like computational science. But what adaption methods are useful/useless? Are they cost effective? Do they work effectively across multiple data sets? We have some preliminary results suggesting that the work for (a) defect prediction but can we also adapt other tasks such as (b) test case prioritization, (c) effort estimation, (d) learning to avoid spurious false negatives from static code analysis, etc. Why is this important? Well, building software is hard. Building good software is even harder when developers have not formally studied SE (i.e. as in the case of many developers of computational science software developers). How can we capture and maintain expertise about software development, then make that expertise more widely available?

Computing Innovation Fellows 2021 Project
Bradford Mott

$232,798 by Computing Research Association (CRA)
09/ 1/2021 - 08/31/2023

Children encounter artificial intelligence (AI) on a daily basis and may have limited recognition that they have interacted with an AI-driven system or misunderstandings around what AI can do. Understanding the technologies behind these systems is essential for all students, especially young children who are coming of age in a highly evolving technological landscape. This project will create story-centric plugged and unplugged activities to support upper elementary student learning of AI concepts as well as develop a set of self-report and multiple-choice instruments for assessing student attitudes and understanding around AI.

Engaging Rural Students in Artificial Intelligence to Develop Pathways for Innovative Computing Careers
Bradford Mott ; Wookhee Min ; Veronica Catete

$1,166,886 by National Science Foundation (NSF)
05/ 1/2022 - 04/30/2025

Recent years have seen a growing recognition of the national STEM workforce shortage. Although problems abound in all STEM disciplines, the shortage is particularly acute in information and communications technology. This is especially true in artificial intelligence (AI), a field of computer science that focuses on the design of computing systems that solve problems involving human-like capabilities including reasoning, learning, and natural language. Engaging middle-grade students, especially those from underserved populations, in artificial intelligence through the creation of lifelike AI for digital games offers a promising approach to encouraging students to pursue innovative computing careers. The AI Play project will engage students in a broad range of computing activities centered on creating AI for games. The project will see the development of a learning environment and curriculum that introduces artificial intelligence into middle school emphasizing connections to the CSTA K-12 Computer Science Standards. The AI Play project will host a series of five-day camps for underserved populations where students will engage in hands-on learning activities under the guidance of teachers and undergraduate computer scientists, who will serve as mentors and role models as the students engage in artificial intelligence, while designing and developing AI for games. The final year of the project will see an evaluation of the AI Play program and its impact on students’ learning and interest in artificial intelligence.

Unifying Circuit-Model Quantum Computing and Quantum Annealing
Frank Mueller

$225,000 by Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL)
04/13/2021 - 09/30/2023

We attack a key software challenge in quantum computing, the programmability of quantum computers. Writing quantum programs is vastly more difficult than writing classical programs, with relatively few of the skills required by the latter translating to the former. Furthermore, the two dominant forms of quantum computation—circuit-model quantum computing and quantum annealing—are programmed fundamentally differently from each other, and each requires substantial effort to master. The goal of this research is to both unify and facilitate the exploitation of circuit-model quantum computers and quantum annealers. As a result, productivity of computational scientists is increased in all scientific disciplines.

Collaborative Research: PPoSS: Planning: Cross-layer Coordination and Optimization for Scalable and Sparse Tensor Networks (CROSS)
Frank Mueller

$62,500 by National Science Foundation (NSF)
10/ 1/2022 - 09/30/2023

This work aims to study sparsity in widely-used tensor networks by introducing constraints, regularization, dictionary, and/or domain knowledge for better data compression, faster computation, lower memory storage, along with better interpretability by: 1) Proposing memory hierarchy and microarchitecture-aware representations and effective yet efficient data (re-)arranging; 2) Designing memory hierarchy-aware and balanced algorithm with smart page arrangement; 3) Erasing the curse of dimensionality through memoization and intelligent data allocation; 4) Exploring specialized architecture on GPU and FPGA. We will accelerate six application scenarios by leveraging the scalable and highly optimized sparse tensor network on distributed heterogeneous systems.

SaTC: CORE: Small: Enhanced Security and Reliability for Embedded Control Systems
Frank Mueller

$500,000 by National Science Foundation (NSF)
10/ 1/2018 - 09/30/2022

CPS and IoT devices are inherently networked, which exposes them to malware attacks. We propose to significantly increase the cyber security specifically of CPS and IoT computing devices by developing real-time monitoring techniques that defeat cyber-attacks.

FFATA: QLCI-CI: NSF Quantum Leap Challenge Institute for Robust Quantum Simulation
Frank Mueller ; Gregory Byrd ; Huiyang Zhou

$1,125,000 by University of Maryland, College Park
09/ 1/2021 - 08/31/2026

The Institute for Robust Quantum Simulation will focus on using quantum simulation to gain insight into—and thereby exploit—the rich behavior of complex quantum systems. Combining expertise from researchers in computer science, engineering, and physics, our team will address the challenge of robustly simulating classically intractable quantum systems of practical interest, and verifying the correctness of the simulation result.

PFCQC: STAQ: Software-Tailored Architecture for Quantum Co-Design
Frank Mueller ; Huiyang Zhou ; Alexander Kemper

$623,408 by Duke University
08/ 1/2021 - 07/31/2023

Quantum computing has the potential to provide a significant advantage over classical computing in terms of algorithmic complexity. The STAQ project is focused on demonstrating such an advantage on an ion trap quantum hardware platform developed at Duke with 64 or more qubits. This requires a co-design between hardware and software to be successful, which Duke University has been developing. NCSU proposes to complement these efforts, potentially leading to earlier demonstration of quantum advantage, by creating a transpiler to translate Qiskit programs to run on STAQ devices, assess benefits of creating complex native gates, and modeling the reliability of STAQ ion trap quantum computers.

CAREER: Understanding and Supporting Programmer Cognition
Christopher Parnin

$555,882 by National Science Foundation (NSF)
07/ 1/2021 - 06/30/2026

Cognition is central to any programming task---from understanding and reading source code, selecting programming abstractions and algorithms, and problem-solving and debugging implementations. Despite its vast capacity and associative powers, the human brain limits what programming tasks can be performed without process or tools to support it. In this project, we use brain imaging techniques to study software engineers, by examining them perform programming tasks under various conditions. From these studies, we are able to explain the neural mechanics of cognition in programming and derive more effective mental representations, strategies, and training techniques. Finally, we design more effective tools and processes for understanding and supporting programmer cognition.

SHF: SMALL: Effective and Equitable Technical Interviews in Software Engineering
Christopher Parnin

$300,000 by National Science Foundation (NSF)
10/ 1/2020 - 09/30/2023

Software engineering candidates commonly participate in high-pressure technical interviews, or whiteboard interviews. Critics have argued that these types of interviews unnecessarily stress and filter out otherwise qualified candidates, yet it remains a standard hiring practice. This project proposes a series of randomized control trials to understand how these practices influence performance of candidates, identify any bias or confounding factors in the process, and develop interventions to make problem-solving assessment more equitable and inclusive.

Collaborative Research: SaTC: TTP: Small: eSLIC: Enhanced Security Static Analysis for Detecting Insecure Configuration Scripts
Christopher Parnin

$199,978 by National Science Foundation (NSF)
10/ 1/2020 - 09/30/2023

Configuration scripts are used to manage system configurations and provision infrastructure at scale. Configuration scripts are susceptible of including security weaknesses such as hard-coded passwords, which can facilitate large-scale data breaches, as well as provisioned systems being compromised. We propose an automated technique to identify security weaknesses so that configuration scripts do not cause large-scale security attacks and data breaches. We will build upon our recent research and construct eSLIC, which will overcome previous limitations of our initial prototype and facilitate wide-spread security static analysis of infrastructure. We will make eSLIC available for OSS and practitioners in industry.

SHF: SMALL: Automated Discovery of Cross-Language Program Behavior Inconsistency
Christopher Parnin ; Kathryn Stolee

$499,994 by National Science Foundation (NSF)
08/ 1/2020 - 07/31/2023

This project advances the state of knowledge about how to infer misconceptions and generate explanations without any explicit models of a programming language. In contrast to existing approaches, which involves manual identification of misconceptions in programming languages, or cross- language migrations—which provide translations but no explanations—our technique automatically discovers inconsistencies cross-languages and supports automatic resolution for problematic translations.

Collaborative Research: CCRI: NEW: An Infrastructure for Sustainable Innovation and Research in Computer Science Education
Thomason Price ; Tiffany Barnes

$460,757 by National Science Foundation (NSF)
08/ 1/2022 - 07/31/2025

We propose to develop infrastructure to enhance and scale CSEd research by leveraging the power of data-driven AI and ML. To do so, we need to overcome 3 challenges: data (there is not enough quantity and quality of data), analytics (developing and sharing data mining and AI methods for CSEd is highly siloed and disconnected) and evaluation (AI-based interventions and tools are not easily deployed and replicated). To address these challenges, we will develop a large collection of resources including datasets, analytical approaches, reusable smart learning content, and tools and user services that enables the community to reuse the resources and contribute to the collection.

CAREER: Increasing Trust and Reducing Abuse in Telephone Networks
Bradley Reaves

$606,848 by National Science Foundation (NSF)
07/ 1/2022 - 06/30/2027

Telephone users are regularly besieged by unsolicited sales and scam calls, cannot verify identities of callers, and enterprises frequently fall prey to expensive compromises of their telephone infrastructure. This proposal will deliver techniques to detect these issues, conduct network-wide systematic measurement, and provide practical defenses for these problems. The vision of this 5-year project is to provide technologies that will restore the telephone network to its former status as a trusted and trustworthy network.

SFS: A Cybersecurity Educational Partnership for the Government Workforce
Douglas Reeves ; Sarah Heckman

$2,748,558 by National Science Foundation (NSF)
01/ 1/2020 - 12/31/2024

Educating the next generation of cybersecurity professionals is a critical need for the State of North Carolina and the United States. We are utilizing our expertise in cybersecurity research to prepare undergraduate and Masters computer science students at NC State for cybersecurity jobs. Scholarship for Service (SFS) will provide students from North Carolina and the United States, especially from underrepresented groups, the opportunity to receive a high quality cybersecurity focused degree. SFS students will be part of a larger cohort of cybersecurity students who will participate in supplemental activities, events, and conferences as part of their educational experience.

DSFAS-AI: Agricultural DECision Intelligence moDEling System for huMan-AI collaboRative acTion Elicitation and impRovement (DECIDE-SMARTER)
David Roberts ; Michael Kudenov ; Cranos Williams ; Daniela Jones ; Sarah Barnhill

$648,722 by US Dept. of Agriculture - National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA NIFA)
06/15/2022 - 06/14/2025

The Agricultural DECision Intelligence moDEling System for huMan-AI collaboRative acTion Elicitation and impRovement (DECIDE-SMARTER) project will lay the foundations of democratized access to Decision Intelligence (DI) technology for stakeholders across the agriculture value chain, filling a longstanding gap between technology and decision makers. Through a process of participatory design, the project team will work with stakeholders in the sweetpotato value chain to: 1) Create a software asset that helps growers with an otherwise difficult decision; 2) conduct experiments that inform the best software interfaces possible to support complex agricultural decision making (through characterizing, understanding, and leveraging human cognitive abilities; 3) identify potential sources of bias in the DI process that would present barriers to democratized access to the technology; and 4) develop a reference architecture and prototype implementation of a modeling, simulation, and visualization framework for implementing multiple DI models with agriculture stakeholders. The project will leverage the ongoing research, data acquisition, and stakeholder efforts by the Sweetpotato Analytics for Produce Provenance and Scanning (Sweet-APPS) team, a multi-disciplinary endeavor that aims to reduce agricultural waste and maximize yield for North Carolina’s sweet potato growers.

CNS Core:Small:On Parallelizing Optical Network Design Problems:Towards Network Optimization as a Service
George Rouskas

$439,148 by National Science Foundation (NSF)
10/ 1/2019 - 09/30/2022

Planning, deploying, and engineering the networks that make up the Internet infrastructure involves complex problems that we will refer to generically as "network design" problems. Effective and efficient solutions to network design problems are crucial to the operation and economics of the Internet and its ability to support critical and reliable communication services. With this research project we aim to make contributions that will lead to new approaches for tackling network design problems in a scalable manner. In particular, we will develop parallel solutions that are applicable to a wide range of problems by exploiting a feature common to all, namely, that the optimization process incorporates both a routing aspect and a resource allocation aspect.

Investigating the Role of Interest in Middle Grade Science with a Multimodal Affect-Sensitive Learning Environment
Jonathan Rowe

$414,761 by National Science Foundation (NSF)
07/15/2020 - 06/30/2023

The proposed project will see the design, development, and investigation of a multimodal affect-sensitive learning environment for generating student interest in middle school science. We will capture rich multi-channel data (eye gaze, facial expression, posture, interaction traces) on student problem solving with an inquiry learning environment. We will utilize multimodal machine learning to induce affect recognition models, which will drive run-time affect-sensitive interventions to trigger and sustain student interest. The project will culminate in a classroom experiment to evaluate the impact of the multimodal affect-sensitive learning environment on student learning and science interest.

Onboarding with BLE
Muhammad Shahzad

$434,700 by Cisco Systems, Inc.
11/ 1/2021 - 04/30/2023

In this project, we propose to develop methods and protocols to automatically onboard BLE devices so that they can connect to any available network and be able to exchange the desired information. We will further develop methods to utilize metadata for analytics and implement appropriate access control policies so that entities with proper permissions can get timely access to the right type of data.

Conference: 2022 Fall Workshop on Computational Geometry
Donald Sheehy

$14,940 by National Science Foundation (NSF)
09/ 1/2022 - 08/31/2023

The 30th Fall Workshop on Computational Geometry will be organized by Professor Don Sheehy of NC State University. The aim of the workshop is to bring together researchers from academia and industry, to stimulate collaboration on problems of common interest arising in all areas of geometric computing. Following the tradition of the previous workshops on Computational Geometry, the format of the workshop will be informal, extending over two days, with several breaks scheduled for discussions. There will be 2 invited speakers. There will also be an open problem session to promote a free exchange of questions and research challenges.

Collaborative Research: CNS Core: Medium: Understanding and Strengthening Memory Security for Non-Volatile Memory
Xipeng Shen

$449,900 by National Science Foundation (NSF)
10/ 1/2021 - 09/30/2024

Memory safety is essential. Despite decades of research, unauthorized memory reads and writes are still among the most common security attacks. The emerging persistent memory (PM) amplifies the importance of strong memory protections. As a promising supplement or substitute of DRAM as main memory, PM offers higher density, better scaling potential, lower idle power, and non-volatility, while retaining byte addressability and random accessibility. Data in a PMO is long lived; its existence and structure are preserved across process runs. The longevity, plus direct byte-addressability, makes it more vulnerable as attacks to a PMO could span across executions. This proposal aims to improve the understanding of the problem and provide innovative solutions to strengthen memory security for future NVM-based systems.

HPC-FAIR: A Framework Managing Data and AI Models for Analyzing and Optimizing Scientific Applications
Xipeng Shen

$508,977 by US Dept. of Energy (DOE)
09/23/2020 - 09/22/2023

The overarching goal of this proposal is to develop a generic HPC data registration and retrieval framework (named HPC-FAIR) to make both training data and AI models of scientific applications findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable. This framework provisions significant speedup of the research and development of ML-based approaches for analyzing and optimizing scientific applications running on heterogeneous supercomputers. The datasets and AI models from HPC-FAIR will also serve as common baselines to quickly, consistently, and fairly evaluate new AI models for quality, complexity, and overhead.

Day-Ahead Probabilistic Forecasting of Net-Load and Demand Response Potentials with High Penetration of Behind-the-Meter Solar-plus-Storage
Xipeng Shen - Co-PI ; Wenyuan Tang

$750,000 by US Dept. of Energy (DOE) - Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (EERE)
06/ 1/2021 - 05/31/2024

With the increasing penetration of behind-the-meter solar and energy storage, it is favored to leverage recent advances in artificial intelligence to enhance the accuracy of net-load forecasting, the observability of net-load variability, and the understanding of the coupling between net-load and demand response potentials. The proposed project will develop two models to address the hybrid probabilistic forecasting when small and large data sets are available. The first model will incorporate a new gradient boosting machine, in which a projection of the distribution into a Riemannian space is considered, whose corresponding natural gradient is expected to give better updates at each iteration than the state of the art. Meanwhile, a data-driven type-2 fuzzy system which generates monotone if-then rules will be developed to preprocess inputs. The second model consists of graph attention networks, transformers, and variational autoencoders. The graph attention networks overcome the theoretical issues with spectral based methods. The transformers ensure each time step to attend over all the time steps in the input sequence, compared with recurrent neural networks. The combination can give better spatiotemporal information. Moreover, those two models will be extended to forecast net-load with the consideration of demand response potentials, as a multi-target forecasting task.

RI: Small: Foundations of Ethics for Multiagent Systems
Munindar Singh

$500,000 by National Science Foundation (NSF)
10/ 1/2021 - 09/30/2024

Recent advances in artificial intelligence have raised concerns of ethics in regards to intelligent, adaptive agents. This project begins from a model of a sociotechnical system (STS) comprising autonomous social entities (people and organizations -- principals) and technical entities (agents, who help principals). Its objective is to uncover principles of multiagent systems that enable developing sociotechnical systems that incorporate ethical concerns adaptively and from multiple perspectives, and with high confidence. This project will develop a formal computational representation of an STS in terms of social controls over its principals and technical controls over its agents.

Foureye: Cyber Defensive Deception based on Hypergame Theory for Tactical Networks
Munindar Singh

$95,000 by Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (aka Virginia Tech)
12/ 1/2020 - 04/30/2023

This project investigates a form of active cyberdefense based on defensive deception against an attacker. It applies a form of game theory called hypergame theory that enables a natural representation of situations where an attacker and a defender can be understood as playing a different game. This project will develop computational models of hypergames that reflect cyber attack and defense strategies to support the investigation of tradeoffs such as between defense effectiveness and cost. If successful, the project will yield representations and algorithms that defenders could apply to disrupt an attacker's beliefs and thus cause attacks to fail.

RI: Small: Principles of Normative Multiagent Systems for Decentralized Applications
Munindar Singh

$450,000 by National Science Foundation (NSF)
10/ 1/2019 - 09/30/2022

This project will investigate theoretical models and programming techniques for decentralized applications. Emerging technologies show great potential in helping bring about a new era of automated contracts that enables flexible transactions among independent parties---with applications in finance, healthcare, pharmaceuticals, among other domains. This project will go beyond current approaches by providing a new declarative model that is able to handle the challenging computing-related aspects of real-life contracts. This model is accompanied with techniques that provide guidance on how to specify and enact contracts in a manner that is precise, flexible, and eliminates unnecessary information sharing.

CAREER: On the Foundations of Semantic Code Search
Kathryn Stolee

$500,000 by National Science Foundation (NSF)
08/ 1/2018 - 07/31/2023

Semantic code search uses behavioral specifications, such as input/output examples, to identify code in a repository that matches the specification. Challenges include handling scenarios when 1) there are too few solutions, 2) it is difficult to understand how solutions differ, and 3) there are too many solutions. I propose techniques to 1) expand the scope of code that can be modeled and find approximate solutions when an exact one does not exist, 2) determine the differences between two code fragments, and 3) navigate a large space of possible solutions are needed by selecting inputs that maximally divide the solution space.

Improving Software Testing Education through Lightweight Explicit Testing Strategies and Feedback
Kathryn Stolee ; Thomason Price

$299,998 by National Science Foundation (NSF)
07/ 1/2022 - 06/30/2025

Software testing is a critical skill for computer science graduates entering technical positions. Software tests, and in particular unit tests, have several uses in education. The purpose of this proposal is to create pedagogy and tools around writing unit tests for CS3 and Software Engineering (SE) courses. Building on our preliminary work, we develop and evaluate the impact of a lightweight intervention with explicit testing strategies on the test quality of student-written tests. Then, we investigate the impact of the process of writing tests on student outcomes.

CHS: Small: Adaptive Rendering and Display for Emerging Immersive Experiences
Ben Watson

$497,177 by National Science Foundation (NSF)
10/ 1/2020 - 09/30/2023

This project will develop adaptive rendering and display technologies supporting emerging immersive displays, including wall-spanning, glasses-free stereo windows and lightweight AR/VR glasses. Such displays demand high-bandwidth, low-latency input not available today. We will attack this problem with software and hardware that exploit perceptual asymmetries and spatiotemporal redundancies. The resulting immersive displays will help realize nascent applications such as immersive entertainment and simulation, socially engaging conferencing and first-person wayfinding.

NCAE-C-001-2021: North Carolina State University (National Center of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity - NCSU)
Laurie Williams ; William Enck

$2,981,264 by National Security Agency
09/15/2021 - 12/31/2024

The North Carolina Partnership for Cybersecurity Excellence (NC-PaCE) is a coalition of industry, government, and educational organizations committed to outpacing attackers through a partnership of cybersecurity excellence in research, education, and service. The Secure Computing Institute at North Carolina State University (NCSU) leads NC-PaCE organizations to address a growing cybersecurity workforce gap through educational opportunities; to protect financial assets and intellectual property (IP); and to drive economic growth of North Carolina’s public agencies and private sector businesses through cybersecurity research and service. Synergistically, NC-PaCE supports entrepreneurial and economic growth in North Carolina. NC-PaCE partners are NSA National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity (CAE-C) educational institutions and include: NCSU, East Carolina University (ECU), Forsyth Technical Community College (FTCC), North Carolina A&T (NCAT), UNC-Charlotte (UNC-C), UNC-Wilmington (UNCW), and Wake Technical Community College (WTCC). The educational institutions will work together to close the cybersecurity talent gap highlighted in the Cyberseek (https://www.cyberseek.org) Supply/Demand Heat Map. Cyberseek is an organization funded by the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE), a program of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to provide detailed, actionable data about supply and demand in the cybersecurity job market. Based upon Cyerseek’s data, North Carolina is third in the country in terms of supply/demand ratio of cybersecurity workers. The need for cybersec urity-trained professionals is real in North Carolina.

Collaborative: SaTC: Frontiers: Enabling a Secure and Trustworthy Software Supply Chain
Laurie Williams ; William Enck ; Alexandros Kapravelos

$6,344,481 by National Science Foundation (NSF)
10/ 1/2022 - 09/30/2027

Digital innovation is the source of competitiveness and value creation for many types of businesses. The universal desire for rapid digital innovation demands efficient reuse of software code building blocks, which has increased the dependence upon open source and third-party libraries and tools that comprise the software supply chain. Adversaries have moved from finding and exploiting vulnerabilities in end products to a new generation of supply chain attacks where attackers aggressively implant malicious code directly into artifacts in the supply chain and find their way into build and deployment pipelines. Digital innovation depends upon confidence in the software supply chain. As such, our research will enable the following vision: The software industry can rapidly innovate with confidence in the security of their software supply chain. The challenge of software supply chain security has recently received significant interest from industry and government. However, discussions with key stakeholders indicate that the state-of-the-art is preliminary, motivating scientific research to address the underlying fundamental challenges that will limit the practical success of existing approaches. We tackle the challenges of secure software supply chain through three thrusts: prevention, detection, and response, with an explicit objective of moving toward preventing security failures. For each thrust, we consider five hard security problems: (1) Scalability and Composability, such as detecting malicious commits and hardening containers; (2) Policy-governed Secure Collaboration, such as effective use of Software Bill of Materials; (3) Predictive Security Metrics, such as measuring the exploitability of vulnerabilities; (4) Resilient Architectures, such as isolation and sandboxing of components; and (5) Human Behavior, such as studying how to make software developers make more secure decisions. The project will impact the software industry by engaging with current industry players/community, enabling their participation in our research thrusts. Additionally, the project will involve educating the next generation of engineers to eradicate software supply chain security issues and training current employees to make them aware of these issues to help reduce them. To solve these challenging issues, we have created a multidisciplinary proposing team committed to diversity.

SHF: Small: Detecting the 1%: Growing the Science of Vulnerability Detection
Laurie Williams ; Timothy Menzies

$499,998 by National Science Foundation (NSF)
10/ 1/2019 - 09/30/2022

Software practitioners need methods to prioritize security verification efforts through the development of practical vulnerability prediction models. The PIs of this project have conducted extensive research of software analytics and vulnerability prediction algorithms. Based on that work, we can assert that vulnerability predictors usually use old data mining technology, some of which dates back several decades. This proposal will explore numerous better ways to build vulnerability predictors.

SaTC: CORE: Small: Risk-based Secure Checked-in Credential Reduction for Software Development
Laurie Williams ; Bradley Reaves

$399,708 by National Science Foundation (NSF)
07/ 1/2021 - 06/30/2024

Modern distributed systems and Internet services require authentication between their components to protect their services from unauthorized access and ensure appropriate billing. In practice, this authentication is performed by presenting a static secret, such as an “API key” or password. These are difficult for developers to manage and deploy securely, and credentials are accidentally or intentionally stored in widely readable software repositories. This threatens not just the security of the leaker, but also the authenticating service. The ultimate root cause of this issue is the adaptation of user authentication methods (e.g., passwords) to software in ways that are inappropriate and ultimately unsafe. This proposal will fund research to more reliably and consistently identify these leaked software credentials, triage them according to the risk they present, conduct developer interventions to train them to properly manage this risk, and finally develop more secure yet manageable alternative solutions to software authentication.

FARM BILL: NRI: INT: Towards the Development of a Customizable Fleet of Autonomous Co-Robots for Advancing Aquaculture Production
Sierra Young ; Steven Hall ; John-Paul Ore ; Celso Castro Bolinaga ; Natalie Nelson

$499,245 by US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) - National Institute of Food and Agriculture
11/ 1/2020 - 10/31/2024

Aquaculture, the rearing and harvesting of organisms in water environments, is a rapidly expanding industry that now produces more seafood than all wild caught fisheries worldwide. This inevitable growth must be steered towards sustainable production practices, which requires intensive monitoring in areas that are difficult and potentially dangerous to access. The vision of this project is to improve the efficiency and sustainability of near-shore aquaculture production through integrating a flexible, customizable, multi-task vehicle fleet, consisting primarily of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and unmanned surface vehicles (USVs), with a biologically-relevant framework for accelerated prototyping. This project will use oyster production along the Eastern US shoreline as a case study and testbed.

CAREER: WolfPack: An Application-Network Co-Design Framework for Performance-Guaranteed Real-time Applications at the Network Edge
Ruozhou Yu

$505,702 by National Science Foundation (NSF)
07/ 1/2021 - 06/30/2026

Abstract: The goal of this CAREER project is to fill the gap between growing application complexity and performance requirements, and existing application-agnostic network management, to enable and incentivize rigorous performance guarantees for distributed real-time applications at the network edge. The core contribution is the design, analysis, and evaluation of WolfPack, a general edge resource provisioning framework for real-time applications. The PI will focus on three key thrusts: 1) modeling and optimization of edge resource provisioning, 2) stochastic models and robustness techniques to control the risk, and 3) incentive mechanisms to enable truthful and competitive network edge resource trading.

Collaborative Research: CNS Core: Small: Robust Resource Planning and Orchestration to Satisfy End-to-End SLA Requirements in Mobile Edge Networks.
Ruozhou Yu

$142,500 by National Science Foundation (NSF)
10/ 1/2020 - 09/30/2023

The potential of modern real-time applications, while enabled by advances in wireless communication technologies, is limited by the poor and unpredictable performance of the cloud backend as an Internet-based service. Edge computing is believed to be the magic bullet to this problem, but after years of research, we have yet witnessed the first large-scale deployment and utilization of edge computing. We believe the barrier is the lack of SLA-based performance guarantee, due to the inevitable risk of SLA violation. This project aims to take the first step in modeling and optimization of SLA violation risks in mobile edge computing.

SCH: A Personalized Wearable Rehabilitation Sensing System for Stroke Survivors
Yong Zhu ; Xiaogang Hu ; Alper Bozkurt ; Xu Liu ; Xipeng Shen

$1,199,998 by National Institutes of Health (NIH)
09/17/2021 - 08/31/2025

Stroke is a leading cause of motor disability. A majority of stroke survivors exhibit upper and lower limb motor impairments, ranging from incapability of reaching and grasping objects to limited ambulation. The objective of this project is to develop a personalized, community-based rehabilitation system to improve daily functions of stroke survivors. The system will include three essential components – a nanomaterial-enabled multifunctional wearable sensor network to monitor arm and leg functional activities; a low-power data acquisition, processing, and transmission protocol; and a user interface (i.e., smart phone APP) to communicate training outcomes to the users and clinicians and receive feedback from the users and clinicians. The proposed community-based rehabilitation system will enable personalized, continuous rehabilitation during daily activities.