Sanghani Center Student Spotlight: Yali Bian

Yali Bian, Ph.D. student in the Department of Computer Science
Graphic from the paper “DeepVA: Bridging Cognition and Computation through Semantic Interaction and Deep Learning” 

According to Yali Bian, the Sanghani Center’s proclivity for encouraging interdisciplinary research is an added benefit while working on his dissertation topic, “Interactive Deep Learning for Semantic Interaction.” It encompasses several different research areas like human computer interaction, deep learning, visual analytics, and explainable AI. 

Bian is exploring ways to provide user-friendly interactive visualization systems to users unfamiliar with deep learning so that they can make full usage of powerful deep learning models.

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Sanghani Center Student Spotlight: Bipasha Banerjee

When Bipasha Banerjee was looking for a Ph.D. program she had one major criteria: it had to give the highest importance to research. With her continuing passion for knowing more, she wanted to delve deeper into open questions and learn how to solve them.

“The quality of research in computer science at Virginia Tech is unparalleled and professors associated with the Sanghani Center are involved in projects that encompass a large range of real-world issues,” said Banerjee. “I realized this was the right fit for me and, thankfully I was accepted and started an exciting journey of research.”

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Sanghani Center Student Spotlight: Po-Han Chen

Po-Han Chen, Master’s student in the Department of Computer Science
Graphic is from the paper “RISECURE: Metro Incidents And Threat Detection Using Social Media”

Po-Han Chen, a master’s degree student in computer science, was on the research team for the paper, “RISECURE: Metro Incidents And Threat Detection Using Social Media,” that appeared in the proceedings of the 2020 IEEE/ACM International Conference on Advances in Social Networks Analysis and Mining (ASONAM) held virtually in December.

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Subhodip Biswas receives Journeyman Fellowship from Army Research Lab

Subhodip Biswas, Ph.D. student in the Department of Computer Science

Subhodip Biswas is the recipient of the Journeyman Fellowship through the DEVCOM Army Research Laboratory (ARL) Research Associateship Program (RAP) administered by the Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU). This fellowship will provide Biswas the opportunity to work on Bayesian optimization techniques for automated machine learning (AutoML) and robust AI systems.

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Sanghani Center Student Spotlight: Ola Karajeh

Ola Karajeh, Ph.D. student in the Department of Computer Science
Graphic is from the paper “Predicting Length of Stay for Cardiovascular Hospitalizations in the Intensive Care Unit: Machine Learning Approach”

In her Ph.D. research, Ola Karajeh is investigating efficient solutions to process social media such as Twitter for monitoring public health.

She is particularly interested in the brittleness of these systems, e.g., how non-informational tweets can lead to failure of public health monitoring systems. “Since many institutions report success from building supportive decision making systems based on data collected and processed from sources like Twitter, it is important to identify which posts are non-informational,” she said. 

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Virginia Tech researchers garner two major awards in COVID-19 forecasting challenges

Nikhil Muralidhar, a Ph.D. student at the Sanghani Center, is one of the Virginia Tech researchers on the winning DeepOutbreak team.

DeepOutbreak, a team of researchers from Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, and the University of Iowa, has taken first place in the COVID-19 Symptom Data Challenge.

The competition explores how Facebook symptom survey data can enable earlier detection and improved situational awareness of COVID-19 and flu outbreaks that can help both public health authorities and the general public make better decisions.

The first place award, announced by Catalyst @Health 2.0 in late December, and the team’s work will be featured on the Facebook Data for Good blog. Facebook was one of the sponsors of the challenge. Click here to read more about the challenge.


Mehul and Hema Sanghani. Photo courtesy of the Sanghanis.

Virginia Tech’s growing impact in the greater Washington, D.C., metro area will receive a significant boost thanks to a multimillion-dollar gift from Octo founder and CEO Mehul Sanghani ’98 and his wife, Hema Sanghani ’99.

The couple’s $10 million gift primarily supports the newly renamed Sanghani Center for Artificial Intelligence and Data Analytics, which will be headquartered in the first academic building at the university’s Innovation Campus in Alexandria, Virginia. A majority of the gift is endowed to support recruiting, research, and fellowships at the center, which has operated since 2011 and was formerly known as the Discovery Analytics Center. Funding will also be allocated toward a Sanghani Center scholars program which will afford scholarship opportunities to underrepresented minorities to pursue graduate degrees with a focus on artificial intelligence.

Click here to read more about their gift.

Thomas Jefferson High School student’s DAC summer internship leads to his first publication — Jason Wang presents paper at IEEE International Conference on Big Data

Jason Wang, Thomas Jefferson High School student
Graphic is from Wang’s research on “SOSNet: A Graph Convolutional Network Approach to Fine-Grained Cyberbullying Detection.”

What was Jason Wang’s most important takeaway as a research intern at the Discovery Analytics Center last summer?

Reflecting on his experience, Wang, a senior at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Virginia, said that the two most valuable things he learned are first, while some of the approaches you try do not work as planned, they could serve as stepping stones to the final model and second, “speak up and be unafraid of sharing failures so as not to get stuck in a single direction.”

Wang, whose interest lies in social media mining and natural language processing, worked under the supervision of  Chang-Tien Lu, professor of computer science, and Lu’s Ph.D. student Kaiqun Fu.  

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Congratulations 2020 Fall Graduates!

Among the graduates at Virginia Tech’s 2020 Fall commencement are five Ph.D.’s and six master’s students at the Discovery Analytics Center.

“This year has certainly been a challenging one but our students have persevered. Remotely, they completed required courses and successfully finalized and defended their research,” said Naren Ramakrishnan, the Thomas L. Phillips Professor of Engineering and director of the center. “We are very proud of all they have accomplished and wish them continued success in their new professional positions.”

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World Wildlife Fund partners with Discovery Analytics Center on automated system to help save forests

Aerial view of Amazon deforestation, municipality of Calamar, Guaviare Department, Colombia. The “buffer zone” around Chiribiquete National Park, Colombia is being deforested at an alarming rate, due to land grabbing and cattle ranching, especially in areas newly “opened up” as a result of the peace process. Photo © Luis Barreto / WWF-UK

Nearly half the world’s forests are under threat of deforestation and forest degradation.

Forests are at most risk of being destroyed by degradation — slashed trees, bare clearings, newly formed trenches and water gullies, and water clouded by eroding soil — which often leads to deforestation. Forest degradation has an even greater environmental, economic, and social impact because it not only affects the structure and function of a forest, but also lowers its capacity to provide goods and ecosystem services to help keep air and water clean, provide wildlife and humans with shelter and food, and capture carbon. More than three-quarters of the world’s land-based species live in forests, and over 1.5 billion people rely directly on forests for their livelihoods. Click here to read more.