Innovation is the name of the game when it comes to being part of a major research university. However, UC Merced takes it to the next level by employing top computer scientists and engineers to create a cutting-edge program that provides students with practical experiences to match the foundation of theoretical knowledge amassed during their careers here.
Our faculty members have a reputation for looking at their specialized areas in new ways, often leading to discoveries previously thought impossible or – at the very least – improbable.
Professor Erik Rolland, for instance, utilizes his background in theoretical computer science, applied mathematics and management to find creative solutions to problems such as increasing power in orbiting satellites, saving tigers and catching thieves.
“I love modeling problems people haven’t been able to model or solve before,” said Rolland, who holds joint appointment with the School of Engineering and the Ernest & Julio Gallo Management Program.
Professor Shawn Newsam is breaking barriers by using geotagged photos and video provided by users of some social media websites to create enhanced maps that illustrate things like land-use classifications and public sentiment.
He’s the first researcher to study the use of such images as volunteered geographic information.
Mapping what is where on the Earth’s surface is currently done primarily through aerial and satellite images. This is useful in many ways but is limited in terms of portraying things like land-use classifications or public sentiment about a given location or landmark.
This area of research is innovative enough to have earned Newsam a National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award about a year ago. And it’s not the first time Newsam has been behind significant advancements in academia. The founding faculty member has received a U.S. Department of Energy Early Career Scientist and Engineer Award and a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. Newsam, with fellow UC Merced engineering Professor Qinghua Guo and history Professor Ruth Mostern, has also founded the campus’ Spatial Analysis and Research Center, known as SpARC.
Of course, Newsam is only one of many award-winning faculty members who call UC Merced home. Computer scientist Ming-Hsuan Yang has also earned the prestigious NSF CAREER Award. In Yang’s case, the foundation recognized his work on improving visual tracking abilities in machines.
The research could have broad applications, including assistive technology for the visually impaired and improved navigation and surveillance capabilities in robots.
In addition to the research itself, Yang’s project would include developing a code library of tracking algorithms and a large benchmark data set, all of which would be made available to the public. Yang also plans to complement the research with a strong educational component involving both undergraduate and graduate students, with the goal being to encourage students from underrepresented minority groups in the Central Valley to pursue studies in computer sciences and related fields.