Often, many university researchers’ headlines don’t make it in the publications that are read far and wide. Nonetheless, their ideas and technology form the basis of new companies and inspire the work of others. NTX Inno’s coverage of the local startup scene often brings us to brushes into the space, so we decided to dive deeper to find those researchers whose work is worthy of keeping an eye on.
Like many companies, the pandemic has caused many to get creative to continue their work while academic institutions limited access and went to virtual models. However, this list – ranging from long-running, well-funded projects to those starting and spanning several industries – highlights those working on solutions to solve some of the biggest challenges in the world with the most potential to make the jump from research projects to the game-changing business.
Similar to NTX Inno’s annual Startups to Watch list, projects selected were compiled with the help of local university leaders and chosen based on Inno’s editorial process.
So, let’s shine a spotlight on the researchers that could likely be seeing a lot more attention shortly.
Dr. Rym Zalila-Wenkstern’s work and that of doctoral student Behnam Torabi began around 2016 after growing frustrated with the traffic congestion that occurred going to and from UT Dallas each day. To solve that, Zalila-Wenkstern and the team developed DALI or Distributed Agent-based traffic Light. Using artificial intelligence, the technology allows traffic lights to collaborate to adjust signal timing and reduce congestion. A technology pilot, tested at Waterview Parkway, near the university, reduced stoplight waiting times by around 40%. Zalila-Wenkstern jokes that the system worked so well, it began causing delays at other intersections not using the patented DALI smart system.
Zalila-Wenkstern is also the principal investigator for UT Dallas’ Center for Smart and Connected Mobility, one of five new research hubs the university is bringing to Richardson’s Innovation Quarter under the school’s Venture Development Center. She was the previous founder of UT Dallas’ Executive Master’s of Science in Software Engineering program. And on the private side of things, Zalila-Wenkstern is the ZW Corp leader, a stealthy Plano-based startup venture focused on developing a web-based, multi-agent system.
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ABOUT THE UT DALLAS COMPUTER SCIENCE DEPARTMENT
The UT Dallas Computer Science program is one of the largest Computer Science departments in the United States with over 4,000 bachelors-degree students, more than 1,010 master’s students, 140 Ph.D. students, 52 tenure-track faculty members, and 42 full-time senior lecturers, as of Fall 2021. With the University of Texas at Dallas’ unique history of starting as a graduate institution first, the CS Department is built on a legacy of valuing innovative research and providing advanced training for software engineers and computer scientists.