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$1.2M Grant from National Science Foundation to Fund Collaborative Research by University of St. Thomas & Rice

Project to catapult faculty and students in computational research

Here is big news to benefit minority STEM students at the University of St. Thomas-Houston. A research collaborative between UST—a designated minority-serving institution—and Rice University’s Department of Computer Science aims to catapult UST’s faculty and students into the forefront of computational research.

The 3-year, $1.2M STEM project is funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation ($702K for UST and $488K for Rice).

Using Network-based Machine Learning Algorithms

UST Assistant Professor of Computer Science, Dr. Carlos Monroy, serves as principal investigator for the project, along with Drs. Chris Jermaine and Luay Nakhleh from Rice. Their investigation will include network-based machine learning algorithms for analyzing large datasets.

“The project is highly collaborative with research-intensive Rice University, while Hewlett Packard and the City of Houston will offer mentorship opportunities for students,” Monroy said. “Working with such great partners will further strengthen the research and technical skills of our faculty and students, bolstering our reputation.”

Performing Computations over Graph Neural Networks

Solving the research problems will involve the distribution of large-scale graph computations over graph neural networks. The resulting data systems that will be developed will be used to solve foundational problems in biology, including analyses of genome and proteome sequences.

Monroy explained that this project is in collaboration with Drs. Maia Larios-Sanz and Albert Ribes-Zamora from UST’s Biology department, “We will develop tools to focus on two areas in biology. The first will have us using machine learning to search through large protein databases for unique sequence patterns to set the stage for further work. The second area will involve analyzing DNA and RNA sequencies to identify viruses carried by mosquitos.”

Sustainable Research Benefit to UST’s Minority and Traditionally Underserved Students

“As a component of this project we will develop and implement ongoing mechanisms at UST to foster research excellence and make sure that talented students with research desires can pursue and excel in these careers and contribute to discovery and innovation,” Monroy added.

With nearly 60% of its students being Hispanic, UST is a designated minority-serving institution. The University and this NSF grant are committed to creating outstanding research opportunities for St. Thomas students today and into the future.